Life is not for the faint of heart. This little phrase is one that has come to mind often for me over the past few months as I’ve reflected on the past three, five, ten, twenty-five, and thirty-six years of my life.
Within this often harrowing adventure that is human existence, we are often unaware of what moments will turn out to be important—seemingly insignificant events can change our lives, while things that at the time feel like earthquakes can quickly fade into obscurity. But there are rare occasions that are genuine moments of turning a page in our life.
This past Thursday was one such day for me in two important ways.
First, I paid off the last of my debt. While this is always exciting, this was of particular meaning for me because I had accrued the debt during my difficult entry into Toronto. In a genuinely freeing way, paying it off felt like finally turning the page on that difficult year. I hadn’t noticed how much of that experience I was still carrying with me in my heart until I could see the end of that debt and all that it symbolized in sight. But with the tap of my thumb on Thursday morning, it was all lifted from my shoulders—the disheartening job search, the horrible part-time job where I was set up to fail, the mouldering furniture, the unreliable electricity, internet, and hot water, the trio of unhelpfully critical people in my path, the disappointed hopes, and all this during the most unrelenting winter in recent local memory—it all moved permanently into the past, where it belongs. (And good riddance!)
This would of itself represent a wonderful page-turning day. But later that morning, I received word that I had been invited to be a postulant for ordination in the Anglican Diocese of Toronto. This is obviously a big deal and will involve some big changes in my life. But, just as importantly, in its own way, this too lifts some of the weight of the past from my shoulders.
They say discernment is an act of defiance, of “staying with the discordant notes of our lives”(Wilkie Au & Noreen Cannon Au, The Discerning Heart, p.19). I love this definition because my life has involved more than its share of dissonance. Even ignoring the Dark Night of my soul and its long aftermath, my spiritual life has been marked by irony and oddity from the start: I never felt at home in the Anglican tradition in which I was raised; an evangelical charismatic parish taught me to value Tradition; my first encounter with the Orthodox Church taught me to value the Future; it was the very integrity of my Orthodoxy that made that Tradition an unsustainable home for me; it was encounters with Buddhism and drag queen wisdom that allowed me to hear the voice and call of Jesus again; and I ended up back in the church of my childhood, but (at least for a time) as a spiritual refugee.
While beginning the journey to ordained ministry in the Anglican Church in many ways represents the ultimate of these ironies—following in the footsteps of my grandfather and father after such a long and winding road—it also represents the resolution of many of the “discordant notes” of my life. (Far from all of them, but at least it is now far less noisy than it was even a few days ago!) And even more amazingly, it is the path that brings the most of these notes, the most of my past, with it, no longer as absurdities, inconsistencies, or loose threads, but as deep resources of joy and strength. (See what wonders the Lord has wrought!)
This news will likely bring much joy to many of you who read this, but by no means to all. I know that some of you, for deeply held and understandable reasons based in traditions in which you have experienced liberation, truth and joy, cannot imagine how the affirmation of homosexuality can coexist in faithfulness to the Gospel. I understand where you are—I’ve been there myself! And I know some of you, for your own deeply held and understandable reasons based in a culture in which you are now experiencing liberation, truth and joy, cannot imagine why a (seemingly) intelligent, thoughtful gay man would have anything to do with ‘organized religion.’ I understand where you are too!—I’ve been there myself!
But whether this is news you can celebrate or not, I would ask that you would walk with me on this new journey I am undertaking, and uphold me in your prayers, thoughts, and intentions. Because, Life is not for the faint of heart. And if I am to make it through the next three years, five years, ten years, twenty-five years, thirty-six years, and beyond, I’m going to need you by my side.