Rocking the Boat: Random Thoughts on Faith, Church, and the Bible…

It has been months since I last blogged and since I am still near the beginning of the semester, I figured I could spare a few words here before my life becomes almost utter chaos (between my thesis research, internship, and three part-time jobs [TA, writing consultant, student life leader], I will be hard-pressed to find any free time).

It is my last year of seminary. I’ve said that several times and it still hasn’t quite sunk in yet. I guess I’m not sure it’s really supposed to until I graduate, right? It’s like in the movie Amazing Grace where William Wilberforce asks William Pitt after they’ve raced through Wilberforce’s garden, “Why is it when you stop running you always feel the splinters?” and Pitt replies, “It’s a lesson: we must keep going.” The reality of seminary ending will not likely hit until I have stopped writing the papers and reading the books.

But more on that later.

What has come to mind lately has been where I was when I started this journey. And no, it is not when I began seminary, actually. It goes much farther back than that.

When I met with my internship supervisor (Brian Doak at the Newberg campus of George Fox) right before the first Hebrew class, we talked a bit about where things had begun for me. He had asked me who my professor had been at U of O and I said it was Daniel Falk (now at Penn State). And then I told him how I even got started into Falk’s classes: by way of frustration with my Math 112 class.

Only the Lord knows how I even passed Math 111 when I failed the final (I think I received roughly a 56%), but somehow I found myself two weeks into Math 112 drawing countless circles that weren’t doodles, but instead serious attempts at calculations. Unlike any other math class that I had taken up to that point, I had even met with the professor in her office hours twice in the first week. And by the Thursday of the second week, I was ready to call it quits.

But I needed something to replace it; financial aid would not allow me to take 8 credits at the undergraduate level since “full time” was considered 12. So, at around 3 am (so technically Friday), I started browsing the course catalogues and stumbled upon the Religious Studies section. I knew at least one of my friends was in an Intro to the Bible class, so I thought I’d check it out.

It was completely full.

Yet I knew that the end of Friday was the latest anyone could drop classes and receive a 90% refund. And since I had just eaten an entire box of those Little Debbie Oatmeal Crème Pies, which are loaded with sugar, I figured I’d be up awhile. My math homework was certainly not getting done. So I sat there hitting “Refresh” for maybe ten minutes when, lo and behold, the Red Sea parted and the Intro to the Bible class had an opening!

To this day, it was the fastest I had ever signed up for any class.

Ever.

And that was when this whole journey began. I took that class, then the subsequent Jesus and the Gospels in the following fall. And during my fifth year (or as I call it, the Victory Lap year), I took two more classes from Professor Falk because why not? It was during those final classes that I realized that while my major had been English literature, my true passion was studying the Bible. And I believed that my time studying the Bible beyond the normal weekly Bible study was not done.

Why do I bring all of this up? Well, the two afternoon coffees certainly help, but mostly because within the past two days, I have been reminded twice of a church experience that is difficult to relive. Sunday night I received an email asking about this post, which is my honest thoughts about the closure of Calvary Fellowship, my home church in Eugene for 5 of the 7 years I had lived there. And just yesterday afternoon, a fellow classmate and I chatted about Calvary Chapel and why Calvary Fellowship had split off from it (he had heard about it down in California). And like any break within a church denomination, it boiled down to a difference of opinion regarding key beliefs. This time, the two key beliefs were the doctrines of pre-tribulation (rapture) and inerrancy, the latter of which was the major one that I had experienced while at Calvary Fellowship.

Without going too far into the details of what happened that led to Calvary Fellowship’s final closure (honestly, some terminology that is used around “major doctrines” like these is triggering for me), it is enough to say that Danny believed the Bible to be God’s inspired word – the divine revelation that pointed to Jesus. Furthermore, any critique of the doctrine of inerrancy that Danny had had was not for the purpose of “bringing down inerrancy,” as he once stated in a sermon (by the way, that sermon was the one and only time Danny had addressed personal attacks on him and his family that were based off of his beliefs – I mean honestly, who should have to justify why they follow Jesus to fellow Christians?). Even in the final days of the church, we had plenty of members who disagreed with him on this belief, but loved the community that we had all helped to create.

Little did I know that, when I was listening to Danny defend himself to his own church based off of countless rumors spread about him, I would have a difficult time attending any church.

A year after we had said goodbye to Danny, who moved back down to California to take up a job that would provide for his family, I started gathering with other former members of Calvary Fellowship. I think it was only because of their presence that I was even able to sit comfortably in a church (without feeling like I didn’t belong). I haven’t been able to do so since.

In my one normal class, which is all about hermeneutics (“the art of interpretation”), we’re reading this book by Michal J. Gorman who describes the interpretation process as a spiral – we begin in one spot, circle by critique and deconstruction, and ascend upwards as we construct a new way of understanding the Biblical text. As I read those words I pictured a spiral staircase that essentially gets designed as it is being built (something akin to the staircases at Hogwarts). But I didn’t that it was an apt description of how it feels to strive toward a better understanding of the text as you both deconstruct and reconstruct along the way.

As I found out with Calvary Fellowship, deconstructing to reconstruct can feel like chaos. In fact, it can feel like a shipwreck – like a church closing its doors because a pastor dared to challenge a dominant view of the Bible, but do so in a way that was conducive to a healthy faith and spirituality. Interpreting the Bible often feels like sailing on a boat; sometimes it will be smooth and easy, but others it will be terrifyingly rough and it will feel like the boat is about to capsize.

This imagery of a ship at sea is deliberate: almost two years prior to Calvary’s closure I had written a post about why I had chosen to stay with Calvary Fellowship; because my little individualistic faith had become grafted in with the other members. Or as I had put it then, my little rowboat and been broken apart and pieced back together with the much larger ship of Calvary. So when Calvary was no longer a church, I had to reinterpret what my faith even looked like, let alone where I saw myself in the church.

Where my seminary comes into play is how it has provided a place where I can ask questions and not be afraid of not finding an answer. I can mull over things without feeling the pressure to produce a nicely-packaged response (but of course, there is always the pressure one feels right before a paper is due, but that’s a little different). The interpretive methodologies that I have learned thus far have helped redeem a text so wrapped up in religiosity (a word I often heard at Calvary; not even sure if it’s a real word). I feel more comfortable in exploring a text, especially after having learned its original languages.

As you might guess, I’m pretty excited about this hermeneutics class – not only because I might learn some new methodologies for interpretation, but also because it continues the journey that I began in a night of frustration with a college math class my freshman year. Learning more about the Biblical text is all that I really wanted to do in the first place. But now I can do so without feeling inadequate simply because I have a different method of approach or don’t have the “right” method (which is all that inerrancy really is: a method).

Because it’s okay to rock the boat.

Faith, then, seems to be a byproduct of how well we trust God when we don’t feel like we can trust anything else, like the Bible or the church. God is above and beyond all of that. In fact, no amount of prepositions accurately depicts where, when, how, or why God even is (I know, such an English major thing to say, right? Ugh.). God just is. And sometimes when we come to the Bible, that’s all we have to go on.

And that’s okay.

God bless.

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Spring Break Refreshment…

Spring Break, for many graduate students, is not much of a break. Even though the weekly assignments are somewhat put on hold or reduced to a moderate amount, there are still the semester papers, projects, and countless hours of course reading to catch up on. With this in mind, I took a quick trip to Eugene yesterday with my girlfriend – both for a mini-vacation and to show her where I spent seven years of my life.

We first parked on Agate St. just outside of Hayward Field. From there we walked up 15th, past the turf fields, through the dorm halls (passing my own Morton Hall of the Earl complex along the way) toward the EMU (now being rebuilt). After taking a quick stop inside the EMU, we walked down 13th, paused a bit in front of Fenton, and then wandered over to Deady, so she could see the first building built on the University of Oregon’s campus. We continued on to McKenzie, then crossed the street to the Duck Store. She was amazed by the enormity of a school bookstore and I was amazed by the renovations they had made (I used to work for the company and it did not look like that the last time I was there). We then stopped in Café Roma for a coffee with my former pastor, Tony. After a quick photo at the Starbucks next door (where I had met Jenna’s sister, Sierra, who introduced me to Jenna), we hung out at the Knight Library.

There is a song from the U of O’s acappella group, On the Rocks, called “Call Me a Duck” (a remake off of Maino’s “All the Above”). In that song, which is all about being a student at the university without a football focus, there is a portion of a line that goes “Picture you studying Greek…” At the time I first heard the song, I did not think much of it. But when I sat down at a window seat in the top floor of the Knight Library to do a little Greek homework, it was the first thing I could think of.

Top floor, far left corner from the stairs.
Taken after finished transcribing Col. 3:9-11, a passage about renewal.

It was a poetic moment that encapsulated the journey from the University of Oregon up to George Fox Evangelical Seminary, where I am now two years into a Master of Arts in Theological Studies (MATS) degree. At a point in the semester (and even in the degree pursuit altogether) when exhaustion is beginning to hit me, it was a refreshing reminder that there was a point when I did not imagine seminary. And as I am now beginning to plan what to write for my Master’s thesis as well as studying for the GRE to move on to a PhD program in a year and a half, it is a nice motto of what I hope to study and teach after I have left George Fox.

No, it is not as if Greek is my primary area of interest, but it certainly is a part of it. It certainly is a fascinating language all its own. It certainly has opened up my understanding of the Biblical text. And I certainly would not be studying it had I not gone to the U of O. As I plan for the upcoming academic year and prepare myself for what may (hopefully) follow, remembering where I have come from and all of the transformative processes I have gone through will be what drives me forward.

Even in seminary, God can seem a little distant. When that happens, one’s future looks a little blurry and confusing. But every now and then, God – on God’s own timing – sends little reminders that God is still there, refreshing you and your passions like rain to an Oregonian.

All that God wants in those moments is for us to simply soak it in.

God bless.

On Being a Seminarian: Enjoy the Process of Rejection…

Over last weekend I was privileged to attend a couple sessions for the West Coast Qumran Study Group, which felt like a miniature conference with scholars from the west coast of the U.S. and Canada gathered to share ideas, research, and give tips on utilizing Bible software. Or, at the very least, those were the topics of the sessions I was able to attend (the bulk of the study group was held on Saturday – the same day I had my eight hour class). After the final session on Sunday, we went to the Stickmen Brewery in Lake Oswego for lunch.

What was really cool for me was to see my former professor from U of O, Dr. Daniel Falk, talking with one of my new professors at George Fox – my advisor, in fact, Dr. Steve Delamarter. What I found even cooler, though, was having the opportunity to chat with Falk after everything was over. I had told him that I had just finished my first year of seminary and am hoping to continue on for a PhD thereafter. Somewhat to my surprise, he seemed excited and after sharing a couple tips here and there, we got to talking about how scholarship – that is, the advanced study of a particular subject in a particular field – works. He had told me that if I spent my time researching and presenting a topic that doesn’t get rejected, then I haven’t really done much for scholarship. However, if I were to find something – preferably something that hasn’t been tried before – that does get rejected by other scholars, then I actually have advanced – however minutely – scholarship. By ruling something out, one is actually moving the greater pursuit forward.

As I ruminated on this while heading home, I realized there are a few things that I must focus on even as I pursue my Master’s. First of all, however studied one may be, one must never fall in love with their thesis or their particular methodology. Should this happen and that thesis become utterly rejected, then one will feel that they have failed – even though, as just discussed, one has done something for the field. Ultimately, then, my focus should be on being proven wrong; to do as much research as I can and as well as I can with the hope that it gets knocked down. It will not be for naught; it’ll be an opportunity to try something new.

Secondly, I must never carry myself as though I’m always right. In fact, I ought to do the opposite: invite my professors and fellow students to prove me wrong, even in the littlest of essays. Our culture, of which I am very much a part, has become so engrained and fixated against criticism that we’ve become blind to the benefits of criticism – of our work and ideas being out-rightly proven wrong, unsupported, or too steeped in presuppositions. My first paper for writing 121 in college received an ‘F.’ Had it not received such a low, demoralizing grade (with extensive commentary in the margins), I highly doubt that I’d be as motivated to try harder and rework the incorrect areas until they were right – or at least closer to being right.

Thirdly, I must lower whatever expectations I might have about being an influence in scholarship. As Dr. Falk told me on Sunday, nobody really sends waves throughout the rest of the scholarly world for nearly fifteen or twenty years later. There are the rare exceptions, sure, but they’re the geniuses of the scholarly world. I still ought to strive to change the world, but adjust the scope toward something very, very small with the major focus on being utterly rejected and sent back to the drawing board. This, of course, leads to the last thing I realized.

Enjoy the process. Studying more and more is less about acquiring knowledge and more about creating more questions and unraveling one’s knowledge. My experience in seminary has ultimately been a journey of epistemology – of learning and relearning how I know what I know, which requires unraveling one’s knowledge and asking more questions instead of giving more answers. Such a process seems hopeless, if not annoying. But perhaps, once again, this is because our culture has misled us into believing that success is in finding more answers than questions – in being right more than wrong.

Dr. Falk’s words could not have come at a better time. I just finished my first year, have already signed up for classes this fall, and have begun deciding where I’d like to explore for my Master’s thesis (or if I even want to write a thesis). Having my understanding of what defines successful scholarship flipped around allows me to see that the thirst for understanding thrives in an environment where things are proven wrong rather than right. Even as I head into more coursework and build ideas for a thesis, I am shifting my focus not onto proving my arguments right, but to boldly push small, new ideas to rule them out and keep trying. I mean, after all, it gives me an excuse to read more books.

On Being a Seminarian: Work and School…

This is part of a weekend series I’m writing for Near Emmaus. Be sure to check out other posts by other bloggers, especially if you’re interested in biblical studies.

Today is my last shift at The Duck Store (University of Oregon’s bookstore). It is a job I started in my first year out of college and hoped to continue on through seminary because even though it is only part-time, that little bit of income goes a long way. A job helps in answering the question of “Will I have enough?” Seminary is expensive and interest rates on loans are not dropping any time soon. Those 10-15 hours a week were really helpful. But there is another question I’ve been trying to ignore since starting at George Fox: Will I still be able to fully devote myself to my studies in order to flourish academically? Essentially, will I be able to do the work I came here to do and do it well?

Many seminarians are not in the same boat that I am. Many are dating or married, raising children, deeply involved with ministries unrelated to their seminary education, and/or working a full time job. Their purpose for attending seminary leans a little more toward the pastoral side. While that remains an option for me, it is not my current focus. I am not dating or married, raising children, deeply involved with any ministry (not even a part of a faith community, at the moment), and my purpose for attending seminary leans toward the academic side. Therefore, I find it essential to devote the overwhelming majority of my time and energy to my schoolwork. Yet, I know that financial resources are essential in order to even continue studying, so the job seems essential as well.

Another benefit to having a job is that is a regular, mandatory break from academic work. With my day-to-day so entrenched in classes, reading, writing, translating, etc., it has been refreshing to have a place to go where none of that matters. I can chat with my coworkers about sports or traveling to Europe or almost anything other than school. My job has almost been my Sabbath, in a way.

And yet it hasn’t been a Sabbath, a complete rest from obligations. It has only been a rest from academic obligations; any job has entire lists of obligations all their own. And while I’ve enjoyed the rest from academic work, I have felt exhausted by the obligations of a retail atmosphere (my job is also located in a mall). I’ve been reminded of the summer after my freshman year of college when I, for one month, worked four different jobs. I did so because I needed the money, but I would never do it again because it was so incredibly exhausting. Although the extremes aren’t the same here, it is still a similar feeling.

My best academic efforts have come when I wasn’t employed. I didn’t go out much and finances were always tight toward the end of each term (in between financial aid checks), but it produced a platform which gave me the best possibility at academic success. I may have lived off of Top Ramen and coffee, but I received the best grades possible.

Although working a part-time job while attending seminary is the wiser route, it may not work efficiently for everyone. I would recommend at least starting seminary while working a job and see if it’s something you are able to handle – again, though, it depends on your purpose for attending seminary in the first place. But what would you recommend? What has been your experience in balancing work and school? Was it best to treat each realm as a “Sabbath” of sorts to the other or, as was my case, did it make things worse? What’s your purpose for attending seminary (or school, if you’re not in seminary)?

On Being a Seminarian: Being “Present” Through Social Media…

This is part of a weekend series I’m writing for Near Emmaus. Be sure to check out other posts by other blogs, especially if you’re interested in biblical studies.

During my fifth year as an undergrad, I took an introductory PR class. Not only was I still adjusting to the switch from the English Department to the School of Journalism at the U of O (English major, Comm. Studies minor), but I was also adjusting to a particular style of class interaction. There were the vocal discussions much like my English classes, but in this particular PR class, Twitter was used – in fact encouraged! – as a medium to engage the course material.

Ever since that class, I have loved using Twitter. And in a weird way, it helps me to take notes during lectures. If I can process the concepts I learn in class well enough to make a joke about them (many of my tweets are sarcastic remarks), then I’ve processed them well enough to remember them. Knowing what those concepts are about is a little bit trickier, but that gets balanced out with an extra bit of studying. As far as the tweets themselves are concerned, they only seem to help me.

Yesterday, I talked about the challenges this introvert (myself) faces when engaging larger groups of people. During class the night before, we had used Twitter to share thoughts, jokes, and questions about the book of Esther (we listened to an audio version of it – feel free to read tweets here). While, for the most part, I sat back and read all my class mates’ tweets (sharing a few of my own here and there), I noticed how I felt much more engaged with the rest of the class – something that doesn’t necessarily happen all the time in a regular class without the utilization of social media. Don’t get me wrong; I always feel present in the class, but hardly ever a part of the class – like a simple observer occasionally brave enough to raise his hand once every month or so.

Much of it is my own choice. I mean for one thing, I always sit in the back of the class. And for another, I prefer to listen to what my classmates have to say simply because my own thoughts are still being processed – in other words, I don’t process them very well vocally. Obviously this is why I write in general; to process things. Yet with a medium like Twitter (or this blog or Facebook – well, kind of with Facebook), I’m able to write my thoughts and still partake in the class “discussion.”

Why then am I taking in-person classes when I could be taking online classes? Ironically enough, I learn better in the in-person environments. Like I said, I enjoy listening to what my classmates have to say in the spontaneous moments that in-person classes provide. In the online settings, thoughts are shared and they’re great, but they’re a little more edited, a little more refined. I enjoy seeing the beginning stages of thought development because most of the time that is where I feel I am – in the beginning stages.

What I find even more wonderful about Twitter are all the connections I’ve made in the four years I’ve been tweeting. Just a couple weeks ago, I met a newfound friend (Natalie Trust) for Mass – I had never attended Mass before, so a blog post is most certainly in the works. Before that, I received a book for free (believe it or not, from Joel L. Watts himself). And even (long) before that, I started following Brian LePort and Near Emmaus’ posts, which means I may not be blogging over there if it weren’t for Twitter.

Social media, I don’t believe, will ever be a replacement for true, genuine human interaction, but I have enjoyed the many times it has supplemented those interactions. Similar to my question yesterday, how do you – as a student, seminarian, pastor, professor, etc. – see the integration of social media platforms into your church, classroom, or even workplace? Do you see it as an enhancement to the already-present social dynamic or a hindrance?

Back to the Background…

Yesterday my beloved Oregon Ducks suffered their worst loss since 2008 (USC,  44-10). I say “their” because it was the University of Oregon’s football team taking the field and not me. But really, their loss is my loss, too. At least it feels that way.

It doesn’t help that I still work for the University’s bookstore (The Duck Store) and started my shift after Oregon lost. For the first couple of hours we were forced to be the bearers of bad news to those who, for whatever reason, couldn’t catch the game. Many were shocked by what we told them – that it was actually a 26-point difference and not in our favor. Evaluating each reaction and relating with those who were shocked, I quickly realized something for our green and yellow fan culture: we’ve become complacent.

No, not all of us. In fact, maybe even the majority of Duck fans are taking this loss in stride as we’ve been accustomed to do in decades past. But I think the loudest fans among us (oftentimes, myself included) have encouraged a fan culture that expects greatness and perfection in every game. Even in the games we win by more than three touchdowns, there seems to be an implied asterisk to the “W” – indicating that this win was technically a win, but it was “sloppy” by the fans’ (ridiculously high) standard.

We seem to have forgotten our roots. Oregon and Oregon State are not known to be particularly dominant football programs until this most recent decade. In fact, until the BCS Championship game in 2011, we seemed to expect a winning season, but also to be the underdog to one team or another. Thinking back to games I watched when I was a kid, I relished in the underdog role with the possibility, which oftentimes felt like a blind hope, of upsetting our opponent and causing all sorts of chaos in the rankings.

Losing to Arizona (which, before yesterday, hadn’t happened since 2007) might have been the best thing for us moving forward. Not only were we forced to eat our words about not wanting the Rose Bowl (I know, De’Anthony said it, but plenty of us fans thought it), but our pride was checked. No, I shouldn’t say “pride”; our arrogance was checked. Since we lost, we now have the opportunity to mature, to return to humility, and, the part that most excites me, to be quiet.

Ever since the BCS Championship bid three seasons ago, we’ve been “the team to beat,” especially within the Pac-12. Of course, it does help when we win a few conference titles in a row (2009-2011), but even when we face off against non-conference teams, we’re the ones expected to win. But now, we’re out of the spotlight. We were taken a little bit about of the picture in the loss to Stanford, but we’re definitely out now. And I think that’s exactly what we need.

I don’t know about anyone else, but I don’t like being “the team to beat.” I don’t like the national attention with the prime-time TV broadcasts. Maybe it’s my introverted nature, but I like being the team in the background, that’s never heavily considered until the upset is done and over with. No, I don’t like losing. But I also don’t like expecting my team to win so much that when they lose, I feel cheated, as though I want my money back.

My Oregon Ducks, my alma mater, has a history of not being recognized as a title contender. Honestly, I miss those days. I loved watching the game not sure if the Ducks were going to pull through and yet surprising everyone, especially the commentators, with a “W.” I want to be relegated to the channels nobody watches with the commentators no one has ever heard of. I want to be taken “off the radar” of BCS talks until our winged jerseys come out of nowhere with another season sweep and the actual title trophy – not just a BCS bid.

Losing still stinks, but we have a opportunity in front of us. To get quiet, hidden, and without ridiculous expectations until we’ve actually done something no one can deny – not even Lou Holtz (like winning a Championship). We’re back to the background, where “Win The Day” was coined. Let’s enjoy it, draw strength from it, and come back in a better fashion (and with a better attitude) than ever before. Once we’ve done all that, then we can start expecting greatness and perfection.

Besides, the real game that has to be won is the last game against the Beavers (this Friday).

Go Ducks!

“In Eugene…”

Today brought about a hard truth. Feeling the itch to throw a football around and maybe even get caught up in a game, my roommate and I went to a nearby park and tossed a ball around. I originally wanted to head over to a turf field in Newberg on George Fox University’s campus to hopefully increase the odds of playing in a game, but my roommate – who went to George Fox – said it’d be highly unlikely since not too many students play football for fun. During that conversation, I repeated two words I don’t know how many times: “In Eugene…”

I’m not in Eugene anymore. That’s the hard truth I’ve been avoiding for a while, but can’t anymore. I’m not there. I can’t go to the turf fields on any given night and find a couple small pick-up games that need an extra guy. I can’t meet up with friends in under ten minutes for a movie, Suits marathon, or something else on TV; it is at least a twenty-minute drive anywhere to meet up with friends. And I can’t even hang out at my favorite coffee shop and randomly run into friends because I’m not there anymore. Suffice it to say, community – authentic, intentional community – has been tough to come by since I’ve been in the Portland area.

Don’t get me wrong; I have plenty of friends up here. But our schedules are so different and busy that finding a time where everyone can meet is not easy. And even if we do, it’s not a guarantee that something won’t pop up last minute forcing either of us to cancel. I’m still used to Eugene where I knew a lot more people and if I hung out at the right place at the right time, I’d eventually run into someone I’d know (like Starbucks at the Oakway Center – seriously, everyone goes there). I miss that.

I am trying not to sound as though I’m whining and complaining about my new location. My roommate’s awesome, I love my school, and it oftentimes feels pretty nice not to work as much as I used to. But that doesn’t mean there are incredibly difficult aspects – namely, having a genuine community. What I mean by “genuine community” isn’t merely a group of friends, although that is part of it. And I definitely don’t mean “a new church to go to,” either. Merely attending church isn’t community; being a church family is.

This is precisely what I’m after – what I think we all long for. Family. Unconditional acceptance. Church oftentimes creates an environment where everyone is more concerned about their appearance rather than their actual, honest condition. Obviously, I haven’t been to every church; I’m simply pointing out a common vibe I’ve felt nearly every where I’ve gone. What’s wrong with this vibe is that it doesn’t allow for family to happen.

Pardon the bad word, but in family, people know your shit, whether you tell it to them or not. They see how you act, know your ticks, and know when something’s up. And when the time’s right – or even when it’s not – they ask about it. Family provides an opportunity for people to be brutally honest with one another. It’s uncomfortable, sometimes embarrassing, but it works. It’s emotionally, mentally, and even spiritually cleansing when someone knows about the things that are bothering you – or the things that are bringing you joy and for some reason you haven’t been able to celebrate them with others. Family works in both directions; acknowledging the bad and celebrating the good.

As I write this post, I keep running into another hard truth – the only thing way for authentic community to happen: I have to work at it. Granted, others have to be a part of it and as I said above, it’s been difficult simply to meet with others (not anyone’s fault; just how it is). But when those times happen, I have to take advantage and, once again, make myself vulnerable. I have to make the strenuous effort to let others into my life, so that they can know my shit and be the family I need.

In Eugene, I had all that. If I were to move back tomorrow, I know that I could very easily get it all back. But renting a U-Haul is expensive and commuting back and forth from there to Tigard (for class) would not be fun. Plus, my current roommate would not appreciate the sudden departure – despite him getting the bigger room. So for better or worse, I’m here in Portland. I’ve gotten settled into my apartment, school, and new work location; now it’s time to get settled into a new family. And if I’m honest with myself, I can see certain pieces moving together that just might produce what I long to have. Yet I have to be ready – ready to be vulnerable, open, and willing to let others in.

“Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!” – Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

I can’t do this alone. No one can. We’re not meant to.

God bless.