Sitting on the floor of my parent’s living room, rummaging through shelves for something to read. I was looking for something light but found a bible instead.
It was something of a surprise to find a bible amidst old paperbacks, mostly sci-fi, and a few over-sized art books. A scrap of paper was tucked into the opening pages of Leviticus and I remembered that my father had been reading the Old Testament the year he began to convert to Judaism. Neither his conversion nor his reading progressed very far.
I took the bible upstairs, thumbed through it, and stopped at Philippians.
The anticipation of Advent had been palpable this year. There was an overwhelming sense of something about to change, a coming of sorts. Something both bigger and smaller than the child in the manger. Bigger because it felt immediate, like something about to enter my everyday life. Yet smaller because what is quite so large or extravagant as the Incarnation?
And then, as sometimes happens, everything began to unravel and all I could do was weep.
And complain. Bitterly.
There was no reason why I stopped at this particular letter. It seemed as good a place as any to stop and explore this translation.
Sometimes I want to live, and sometimes I long to go and be with Christ.
How had I missed this before?
This short letter, written in Rome, has an honesty that makes me ashamed.
For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith.
Was my complaining, my whining, my seemingly relentless tears testifying to my lack of faith? Sometimes all you can do is lament and that is good and as it should be. Do not let anyone tell you otherwise: the pain is real, uniquely yours, and sacred because of this. Platitudes, like this too shall pass, can devalue what you’re experiencing. But the line between lamentation and whining is sometimes thin and vague.
I am still not all I should be…
Someone recently said they were amenable to the idea of purgatory because it is an opportunity for all that is contrary to what God wants us to be to finally be burned away.
I wonder if maybe, just maybe, there are times when purgatory is here and now. What if those times when the hardships pile up are not tests of faith but moments pregnant with the possibility of transfiguration? Because none of us are all that we should be and why should we wait until we have shuffled out of our skin?
In His time here I see a life lived fully and a life given freely. And I am doing neither. I have closed myself off from the grace and peace here in the present moment. A grace and peace so powerful as to not only forgive but burn away all that you are and are not; all you have done and failed to do. And it’s not available later, or only later, but right now.
The letter writer knew it then and I know it now.
This is the peace I am clinging to and the grace I am longing to be shaped by.
Lord, I am still not all I should be. Amen.