As I read through my social media feeds I tend to see very happy individuals out doing things they love. Activities such as apple picking, hanging out with friends, eating lots of Domino’s, and for some reason even more apple picking dominate my news feeds.
However, when I pick up Yik Yak and scroll through I tend to read a lot of sadness, confusion, frustration, and anger towards the author and each other.
At the beginning of October, I was able to give a homily in Chapel on the topic of grace. What follows is a summation of that homily, but it is mostly a reflection on how hard we can be on ourselves. When it comes down to it, grace is something that we Gusties need more of, for others and especially ourselves.
Until this year what it had meant to be a Christian had seemed pretty straightforward. I have the theological education, have taught confirmation, presented on my faith story more times then I can count, and have the pedigree of being a pastor’s son. Moreover, I have been in a very comfortable place where I know people, have support, can expand, and feel safe. Now, my world is changing around me faster then I know and it is hitting me very hard. As the pressures to do more, be more, and represent more have increased I have struggled to make sense of what is happening. How does one handle being a full time student, employee, job hunter, grad school searcher, and friend at once?
What I have discovered is that in our pursuits to be something other than who we are we must come across the sense of “despair” that Kierkegaard refers to. Now wait a minute. How can a Christian despair, and especially someone who has so much going for them? More so, what does this despair even look like?
Now, looking back I recognize that I have created those molds for myself through my attitudes and perceptions of what it means to be all of those things that I used to define myself earlier. I created a frame and called it goals. Slowly throughout the past three years I have placed myself comfortably where I want to be, and now I feel myself pushed out of that space and as I am sure many of you can attest to, it is both scary and exciting at the same time.
This is where the Apostle Paul’s words of grace and faith in the books of Romans and Galatians come in so clearly. I was meeting with Chaplain Brian earlier this year and he asked me why it was that I attend Chapel.
Without hesitating I answered that it was for the message of grace that is missing from other parts in my life. Paul states that we are justified by faith and no longer by the law. This sounds simple enough, but everyone struggles with it. Luther himself was tormented and this led him to some of his most brilliant writings and reflections on the importance of grace. Kierkegaard, Bonhoeffer, and just about every individual who has turned to grace has done so due to the torment that has haunted them.
When I reflect upon the message of grace I cannot help but to think about how difficult of a thing it is for someone to both give and even more so to receive. How often do we hold something against someone, simply because we felt insulted or even just uncomfortable? Or why is it that when we cannot take the pressures of our life that we choose to pile on more and in essence not allow ourselves the opportunity to reflect inwardly? I know I certainly am guilty of this.
The reason that I appreciate the books of Romans and Galatians so much is that Paul truly lays out the framework for justification by grace that later reformers would pick up on. The power of the law to inhibit and constrain is no longer an issue. Instead, we must move towards faith, and let me tell you, this may be the most difficult of them all.
Grace is something that weaves into the wellbeing of our campus community. When I read about my peers crying multiple times each day, feeling as though their life has no direction, or they do not belong here it hurts me as a member of this community.
Our culture has taught us to be harder on ourselves, to blink back the tears, and to not let anyone know what is going on. In doing this we also deny ourselves the opportunity to open up for healing and instead bury our problems. Once one can recognize that they cannot always make themselves or others happy then they can move towards a healthier and more peaceful state of mind.