On June 19, 2021, I celebrated –– albeit quietly –– my eleventh ordination anniversary. On September 18, I celebrated –– also quietly –– my tenth anniversary of serving Ascension Lutheran Church and The Church of the Holy Cross. On November 18, 2021, Joel and I will have been “together” for twenty-one years and married for eight. Though I don’t imagine we’ll celebrate that quite so quietly.
And as we grow older and simply have more life experience “under our belts,” it becomes easier to mark time –– to measure “how long it’s been” –– by these milestones. Easier to measure them by significant events, and by events which become significant because of how long we’ve been doing them. We remember the lead-up to a particular snowstorm because someone cancelled church when (overnight) the snowstorm fizzled out big-time. We remember where we were on 9/11 because, well, 9/11. We remember where we were when we found out about the birth of a grandchild or the death of a grandparent. We remember how long it took to finish college because we changed our major three times. For me, it’s been more than twenty-one years since my first marriage ended; and that marriage lasted for seventeen years. And during that first marriage, there were other milestones. My discharge from the Air Force. A move to –– and six years later –– a move from Iowa. The birth of my daughter. My conversion to Christianity. Lots of milestones against which we can measure our familial and psychological and spiritual growth.
Someone once said –– and I think it was said humorously –– that time is God’s way of keeping everything from happening all at once; and we know that humor often contains truth. But can you imagine what everything happening all at once would look like? Would feel like? Would it be like watching all six-seasons of Game of Thrones in one second? But what really catches my attention, is that although Genesis 1:26 says: Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness”… we really are still being made, still being formed in God’s image. In the Imago Dei. We are still taking on the Mind of Christ. We are still healing our family of origin woundedness. We’re not done yet.
So perhaps everything can’t happen all at once. Because if it was so easy for us to come to terms with and resolve and heal the realities which lie within us; and those which lie right in front of us (and sometimes stare us in the face, so to say); if it was so easy for us to learn everything we needed to learn, then the world would already look and function much differently than it does now. Healthcare and food and affordable housing would be available to all who need it.
Our dependence on fossil fuels would have been ameliorated by solar and wind. We would do all that’s needed / all that we could to end gun violence. Everyone would be unconditionally loved and accepted for who they are, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. And justice would roll down like waters, and righteousness like an everflowing stream. We might even call it Heaven on Earth. And that would be the kind of milestone to write home about.
But perhaps the most significant milestone we have, is the moment we realize it’s not all up to us. That we can’t, by ourselves, right everything that is wrong. That the Spirit helps us in our weakness because we don’t know how to pray as we ought; and that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. It’s the moment when our appreciation takes a quantum leap, and we more truly and deeply appreciate a God who lavishes such radical grace on us, that we slosh around in it; such unmerited forgiveness, which we could never earn; and such unconditional love, that it brings us to our knees. Perhaps it’s the moment we realize that life is gift, and it’s the moment, after that moment, when we choose to do as much as we’re able to usher in Heaven on Earth. After all, if we were created in God’s image, then that means that we were created to create. And what we create, is up to us. We have the free will, so to do.