As I write this…
I am in pain. I am almost noctu vitae, in the night of life. I will be the first to admit, it has not been the happiest couple of weeks in my life. If you have known me for these past years at Eastern, I have not handled adversity particularly well. I remember having a faith crisis after my time on a Summer Ministries worship team because I could not see God in the day-to-day. A bevy of health issues have forced my grades low enough to get warning letters about losing financial aid. For the first two years of my time here, my narrative was simple: “I am an old man, with a broken heart. Take pity on me.”
I have been tempted to repeat that narrative in recent weeks. I have come close enough to bad choices that I have had to rip myself away from, painfully. But then I thought about you, about this whole journey you and I are starting with Alia Via. I thought about some of the students in my department who watched me struggle those first two years, and still have confidence in me as to look up to me.
Me, a role model for young people, for fellow believers. (Good luck holding back your laughter.)
I truly sought “another way” out this time. I led worship in the chapel with Rev. Wonni this month, and the entire time, I fought back tears and anger and my destructive past. In my past, I have been guilted for leading worship from a place where I needed it more than the congregation. But this time, no guilt, no shame. Just blessing. I did it again for the Kingdom Experience that following weekend, and again, blessing instead of burden.
In a matter of days, the turmoil surrounding my life met a shockingly rapid end. I was able to find my footing faster than ever before, and while I still have those fleeting “what-if” moments, I know that I am at peace in my heart, even if my head is a rebellious little twerp.
I wonder if we realize how much our responses matter. We get caught up in the idea that our anger is sin, our desire is sin, our brokenness is sin. I think that is dangerous, friends. I think that God gave us the capacity to feel these emotions, so to say they are sinful is to say God made us sinful, and I reject that notion. God made creation with limitation, and it is our response to that limitation that bears the fruits of sin, and not the Spirit.
I have no intentions of making it sound like somehow, halfway through the age of 24, I have it all figured out. I still get frustrated at so much stuff. (So much, like, a lot.) Even my friends say stuff sometimes that really annoys me, even hurts me. But I am at least aware now that I must carefully watch my response and find alia via to approach it.
The writer of Ephesians wrote to a largely Gentile audience at the church in Ephesus, calling them to unity in Christ. After describing the nature of this unity, including the increasingly important understanding of speaking the truth in love, the writer calls us to another way of life, an alia via vitae, which involves putting away the former ways, being renewed in the Spirit, and clothing yourself in holiness.
I am willing to bet that, for many of you, your first reactions do not equate to alia via. Neither do mine. For me, that is the scandal of the cross, and the beauty of knowing God is not yet done with me, nor you, nor this creation.
There’s still time to find alia via.