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In my last post, I concluded by saying Christ may be our only source of hope.  This is a shockingly Christian thing for me to say.  The truth is the question of Christ’s deity (and therefore his redemptive power for humanity) has sat on the shelf of my mind for a long time.  I guess awhile ago I got frustrated with the question and set it aside, adopting agnosticism as my justification for not having an answer.

On the bus to St. Stephen I got into a conversation with two other individuals about the person of Jesus Christ.  It’s easy enough for me to accept the historical Jesus.  There is a lot of good solid evidence outside the Bible that a man from Nazareth named Jesus had a following of disciples and was crucified.  It is even easy for me to accept that the moral teachings of Jesus – to love our enemies, to forgive, to live peacefully and justly – outline a good path for a fulfilled life.

It has always been Jesus’ claims of divinity and the resurrection that leave me with questions.

While discarding the question of Jesus, I have continued to wrestle with what it means to be human, what it means to suffer and yet hope, be hurt and yet love, wound and yet strive for justice.  What is the nature of the human condition and why do we continually choose to participate in a broken world?

I believe that though broken and bruised, we humans are capable of stumbling towards love.  This capacity amazes me.  Given the prevalence of human suffering (whether non-directly, indirectly or directly caused by other humans), the fact that we continue to live, and not only live, but live with hope, is incredible.

Earlier in this blog I alluded to this capacity as our source of hope.  My friend Matt made a comment that has caused me to reconsider.  Matt argued that the source of that hope is actually God.  He wrote, “perhaps then, the source of hope lies not in ourselves, or in others, but in the God who takes the death that is caused when we fail to live according to who He is and swallows it up in His life, and who has, and is, and will rescue and make everything new?”

Rescue is coming.  How many times have I longed for this to be true. We crave redemption stories.

It seems to me that without the hope of rescue we don’t have much reason to go on living.  The human condition is often one of suffering.  What makes that suffering worthwhile?  The possibility, the hope, that someday it will be redeemed.  Of course, this does not immediately imply the Christian version of redemption.  Yet the hope for redemption remains.

So here’s where I find myself – We are broken, that seems rather obvious.  We long for redemption, again this seems obvious.  We search out all kinds of way of finding this redemption and we don’t seem to ever reach a consensus on what that looks like.  We do this in all kinds of religious and non-religious ways.  All the religions of the world are offering some form of redemption, enlightenment, nirvana – freedom from human suffering.

But I doubt that we are capable of self-redemption.  I think we must look outside ourselves for hope, for a source of light.  I know lots of people who would argue that the redemption we need is within ourselves, and maybe that’s true for them, but I’ve looked inside myself and only found darkness.

I need something outside myself to reach in and save me.

Ultimately, I think we need God to rescue us and make everything new.  And as much as it confuses my intellect, I don’t see any other way than through the redemptive death and resurrection of Jesus.

I struggle to accept most expressions of contemporary Christianity for a few reasons, one of which is that my experiences of it as a child and youth were usually based more on emotionalism than much else, at least from my perspective.  If I could not feel something, it likely was not real.

As I hit university this swung in an entirely different direction where my entire understanding of, and consequently lack of acceptance of, Christianity was based on intellectualism.  If I could not reason my way through an argument, it likely held no significance.

There are obvious flaws to both of these perspectives.  So I’m left with a question, is there another way?

I think I’ve always been a contemplative.  Or perhaps, I’ve always wanted to be.  Before I knew what all that entailed.

I rather innocently stumbled upon Ignatian spirituality, a practice of Christianity developed by St. Ignatius, that emphasizes contemplation, meditation, gratitude and finding God in our everyday ordinary miraculous existence.

The moment well lived.

The beauty of the sunrise, and the incredible reality that though I have experienced it numerous times, it still retains the ability to capture my breath and take it away.

The devasting brokenness of my community and the reality that still and despite this, we stumble towards love.

These things are miraculous.

Someone commented this weekend that I am an external processor.  How true.  I feel the weight of an experience on my shoulders and in my heart until I can take it out, observe it, re-absorb it, and let it drift away.  A blog is one outlet for that.

This process of examination is akin to the Prayer of Examen.  It’s a funny name, and you can take it or leave it, but it basically means reflecting on one’s day (or week or moment), and identifying what has been life-giving and what has been life-taking.  Ignatius’ terms are consolating and desolating.

In contemplation, my intellect and my emotions connect with something deeper than both.  In contemplation, I realize that neither emotion nor reason is fully capable of engaging spiritual realities.

Through contemplation, I find myself accepting that which my intellect and my emotions do not always understand.  That God is still present in what feels like His absence.  That despite my mind’s inability to grasp it, Christ may be our only source of hope.

I haven’t said much here this month.  There are other reasons for this, but one obvious one is I’ve just been very busy.  Looking back, it is hard to believe how wonderful April has been (especially in contrast to the slow months leading up to it), the culmination of which was an unreal weekend in St. Stephen.  For those who don’t know, St. Stephen is the tiny little town in New Brunswick that became my home after four years of studying there.  Much more than this, St. Stephen is the people I met while there, and the impact they had on my life.

How does one begin to chronicle a weekend like the one just past? Two words come immediately to mind: wild, full.

By wild I do not mean the drunken, rowdiness so often associated with university students and their parties (though there may have been a small amount of that).  No, by wild, I mean the drama of the skies of St. Stephen, the untamed love of the community I have found there, the rawness and depth and beauty of such a concentrated level of celebration and connection.

By full I mean, well, full.  Each moment jammed packed against the next.  The fullness of the weekend makes it difficult to process.  Full of communal joy, like the unity of happy sweaty people dancing to “New Brunswickers Arise”, or the relaxation of laughter around a backyard bonfire, or swing dancing in the Red Room.

And equally full of meaningful conversations and connections.  I was awed by the sheer number of deep conversations that arose throughout the weekend, the engagement of people with ideas and stories and life.  I am wholly grateful for this balance.

Of course, I could not live every weekend as I have this past weekend.  I am spent.  I have no clean clothes left, no energy left, no voice left.  One more swedish berry or sour key and I will likely fall into a severe sugar coma.

As I climbed aboard the bus that would bring me back to Ontario and my life here, I bring with me a greater sense of self-awareness, a refreshed perspective on what it means to love one another (expect more on this soon), and a welcomed relaxation into the stream that carries me from one community to another.  Always grateful for what I have been given and always looking forward to how it will continue to shape me and the lives I encounter.

The truth is that you, St. Stephen’s University, and all the wonderful and broken individuals that make you up, are always going to be a part of me.

I volunteered at the Freeway coffeehouse tonight.

One of my new friends came in to work on one of her many ongoing art/craft projects.  Her art might not be valued by a lot of critics or the general public, but when you see how much joy it gives her, it becomes a deeply meaningful experience, a privilege to share.

When I commented on the beauty of her most recent project she responded by saying “I am very good.  Before I felt so stifled, but now I feel like a butterfly, so free.”

I could have wept, right there on the spot.  I was so moved by her self-awareness, her grace, her recognition of the beautiful and rare gift of being able to express oneself.  This is a true artist.

Journey.

I remember all that has brought me to this place.  Intermingling of light and darkness.  For better or worse, I am who I am.  And I am still becoming.  Stop looking for the big ‘wow’ moment that will forever change my life and live for the small moments that are here and now.  Appreciate the connection of this moment to the journey I have just come from, and the one that will go on from here.  In small ways and small places I continue to journey forward.

Mystery.

I accept that I will never be able to understand it all.  Some of my questions won’t ever have answers.  Be okay with the mystery, even delighted by the mystery.  Birth and death, growth and pain, healing and disease, hope and despair, brokenness and redemption.  It doesn’t make sense to me, but gravity doesn’t make sense to the birds and yet they are able to fly.

Community.

Community is never perfect.  And I wouldn’t want to hang out with perfect people.  I wouldn’t belong there.  It’s good that sometimes I don’t like the things you say or do, because it means its okay when you don’t like the things I say or do.  I still want my roots to become entangled with yours.  And maybe if I listen more and judge less, I will learn something from your story.  I might discover that you and I are not so different.

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