The time is drawing nigh.
In just a few weeks we will be bringing to an end our destined journey together.
As these days and weeks sail by, my colleagues and I, well at least some of us, are giving much thought to what’s next.
Many of us are thinking about who we will be once we leave this place. Many of us appear to have it all figured out.
Some of us have plans to go back into the workforce. Some will be leading parishes or parish ministries. Some of us, like myself, will be going into another year of MORE school.
Much of it, these decisions of what is next or what we will be doing next, are centered around this idea of purpose.
What is my purpose? Who am I? Why am I here? What is my gift?
These questions are, to some extent, unavoidable. And recently, these questions were the centering focus of a session in our Howard Thurman course.
They are difficult questions to answer. To an extent, they are overwhelming and intimidating questions to answer. And why wouldn’t they be? We did come here, to this place called the Candler School of Theology to get some clarity, right?
During the session, our guest lecturer, Dr. Gregory Ellison, had us consider these questions in small groups with others. It was what he calls a laboratory experience. The experiment, as I will label it, was not necessarily for us to find any answers, but for us to at least engage them. We were instructed to wrestle, seek and question. But not one time were we instructed to answer them.
In my searching, I had an epiphany.
The story of Jacob comes to mind when considering this process of wrestling. In the 32 chapter of book of Genesis we find Jacob in a series of conundrums. I have always found this story of Jacob to be intriguing because of its imagery and storyline.
He is running, hiding, moving possessions and family and dealing with the result of some choices – he is dealing with life. And eventually he comes across this individual. Different translations say it’s a man. Some say it’s an angel. Some say the individual is God. What is shared by all of the translations is that a wrestling match takes place between the two; Jacob will not let go of the “entity” without a blessing; and then his name is changed.
Jacob walks away from the situation changed. After some wrestling – and determination – he has been changed, made new. He has a new name, but not only that he has this limp. Now, some have come to consider the limp as an impediment. But I consider the limp to be more of a testament. The limp is a lifelong reminder of the experience and how he has overcome.
Now, you may be wondering what any of this means and the point I am trying to make. It is actually quite simple. Dr. Ellison pointed something out in our wrestling with the questions he posed to us on this Thursday, during a session of our Howard Thurman course. And it is something that I believe regarding this story of Jacob, now known as Israel.
There is a purpose in the wrestling.
As my colleagues and I approach the final days of our time here at Candler, we have wrestled and are continuing to wrestle with a vast array of questions. Who are we? Why are we here? What is our purpose?
They are all questions we have come into contact with and I suspect we should continue to come into contact with; and rightfully so, right? But in the wrestling we are changed; we are made different from the experience. And once we are done wrestling with one thing, God blesses us in God’s own way. The blessings may come in the form of epiphany. The blessings may come in the form of answers and greater clarity on the journeys we have embarked.
And there will be scars along the way, scars that will remind us of the experience of wrestling – scars that will heal, but will also serve as the evidence that in some way, we have been touched by God.
We do not always have to have answers. And in reality, the answers are not as important as the experience of wrestling with the questions.
So, I leave this place called the Candler School of Theology renamed and limping, embarking upon a new journey of purpose and intent – wrestling with a new set of questions and seeking God’s blessings along the way.
Won’t you journey with me?