I have often heard it said that it takes about a year for big things in life to sort themselves out. After the death of a loved one, for instance, it usually takes at least a year before we feel like we have taken even the first productive step in the grieving process. Before that we feel so confused and have wide swings of emotions. Grieving never leaves us but it goes to different levels and usually after about a year we gain at least a little perspective. Some confusing voices in our heads calm down a little.
When anyone comes to me with a big decision to make, I often tell them that we should establish a daily pattern of listening and discernment and that, after a year, we should know clearly what the decision should be. Some decisions have to be made quicker than that but most of the really big ones take some time to hear what we should do. Over the course of a year, clarity evolves that simply isn’t available when we have those feelings of urgency. We talk about time healing wounds and making a difference but of course time itself is neutral. What we mean is that God uses time to heal us and bring about clarity.
This past year at St. John’s a lot has happened and it’s becoming pretty obvious to me that I am now seeing some clarity that I didn’t really see a year ago. The past few months I have been rereading some of my journal from last year. Each morning when I write about what is going on in my life right now, I have been going back and seeing what was going on in my life last year at the same time.
The first thing I have noticed is how downright impatient I tend to be. All the things that I was all worked up about last year have all turned out so much better than I could have imagined a year ago. A year ago, for instance, I was struggling with a diocese who was refusing to ordain any of their graduating seminarians, one of whom was Daniel Cenci who we had agreed to hire. Nothing about that situation made much sense but, after some struggle, Daniel and I agreed that we would work together for a year with him as a lay person and get him ordained this year instead of last year. Last year that seemed like a huge imposition and a waste of time. My own father said, in a conversation last year: “This is one of the few times in your life you have not been able to get your way.” And he was right. He was also right in intimating that this could be a good thing for me. Daniel and I agreed to work together and I told him that in a year this would all turn out to be a blessing. I told him that but I didn’t completely believe it myself. I did know that it would all be worth it but I entered all that with a lot of confusion and frustration. It was like there were a million voices talking to me about what I should try to make the situation go the way I wanted it to go. But I kept hitting a brick wall and just had to wait for things to sort themselves out however they might do that.
Well, a year later that situation has sorted itself out very nicely. Daniel was ordained a Deacon this past Saturday and it was probably much more meaningful to him and to me for us having to wait a full year longer than we thought we would need to. Something has been formed in Daniel and me, and probably in you too, over that year. Things don’t necessarily go the way we plan them but all things get sorted out by God in his time. The confusing voices I was hearing a year ago all now sound like one steady peaceful voice reminding me that God is in control and that he has called a wonderful young man to serve a wonderful parish.
Genesis 11:1-9 describes the scattering over the face of the earth all the different languages. The story says that God determined that we needed humbling so he confused our languages and that caused divisions among us. Most of us are pretty familiar with that phenomenon in our own lives where there are many voices inside our heads and we don’t really know what they might be saying to us. It’s like we are divided inside.
Acts 2:1-21 tells of the great reversal of that situation, a time when the Holy Spirit came upon a gathering and people from various nations all heard each other speaking in their own native tongue. All the confusing voices become recognizable as the Holy Spirit lends the aid of the Almighty God.
Pentecost gives us an occasion to celebrate the Holy Spirit, an eternal gift of God that has been at work since before creation. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are all expressions of the one true God and all are eternal expressions. What the Holy Spirit provides, among other things, is discernment. When we are confused and broken and can’t hear the answer above all the tumult, if we will but listen and wait, the Holy Spirit will come to us in clarity.
All the time you and I are dealing with confusing voices. Be encouraged this day that all the confusing voices you may be hearing will be clarified and unified by God’s grace. Do your part and name your confusing voices to God and then allow him to bring the gift that is only his to bring: clarity and discernment. God makes all things well. God makes all things peaceful. God makes all things right in God’s holy time.
Robert C. Wisnewski, Jr.
EFM Classes Forming
Education for Ministry classes are now being formed for the fall. EFM is a theological study course offered by extension through the University of the South – Sewanee and is designed for lay people. It is a series of 4 one year courses which involves individual study and group reflection. The purpose is to deepen in knowledge and understanding of the Christian faith and to be further formed for ministry in the world. St. John’s is fortunate to have 4 EFM classes: Thursday night 6:30-8:30; Sunday nights 5:30-7:30; Wednesday morning 9:30-12:00; and an on-line course is offered Fridays 9:00-10:30. If you are interested in any of these classes, please contact our EFM coordinator George West (285-4317 or firstname.lastname@example.org) or Robert Wisnewski (email@example.com) or one of the other mentors (Dudley Perry, Maria Pacheco-West, and Karen Pirnie).