Read­ing Time: 3 min­utes

When I start­ed blog­ging in 2006, I was a dif­fer­ent man in a dif­fer­ent place. I was 42; my old­est was in mid­dle school, my youngest not even in kinder­garten; I was about 30 pounds heav­ier; I was mar­ried and vir­tu­al­ly inca­pac­i­tat­ed by pan­ic attacks (these last two are not unre­lat­ed). I was teach­ing growth-track class­es at a megachurch and active in their small group min­istry. That was Dan ver­sion 1.5 or 6.

Now, I’m 51; Zack has start­ed his career (I have an adult child!), Anna is in mid­dle school, and Isaac is in high school; I’m small­er, health­i­er, gray­er; I’m divorced and liv­ing an active, hap­py life (these last two are not unre­lat­ed). I’ve gone from evan­gel­i­cal megachurch to church plant, where I led the small group min­istry, to the Epis­co­pal Church (con­firmed in 2012) and then to the Unit­ed Methodist Church (more about all that here).

Addi­tion­al­ly, I’m liv­ing on my own for the first time in my life. This change alone has been exhil­a­rat­ing and more than a lit­tle fright­en­ing — com­plete free­dom and com­plete respon­si­bil­i­ty.

I love it.

Get­ting here has been hard. Since Jan­u­ary 30, 2012, I have

  • decid­ed to end my mar­riage,
  • buried my father,
  • announced my divorce,
  • left my church and small group min­istry,
  • lost most of my friends,
  • found a new church that accept­ed my divorce,
  • spent 6 months set­tling up 23 years of mar­ried life,
  • signed the papers,
  • moved out,
  • spent my first Christ­mas alone,
  • sold our house,
  • gone into more debt than I care to dis­cuss,
  • come out,
  • start­ed dat­ing,
  • filed for bank­rupt­cy,
  • found the man I want to mar­ry, and
  • dis­cov­ered a church that open­ly invites gays and les­bians to active par­tic­i­pa­tion in the life of the church.

I would do it all again. Along the way, I’ve dis­cov­ered I’m stronger than I thought. I’ve also learned some things about myself I would have pre­ferred not to know. I under­stand friend­ship bet­ter. I see God and church dif­fer­ent­ly.

In 2013, new­ly divorced, new­ly out, new­ly on my own, I thought of myself as Dan 2.0—a new ver­sion, but still in the test­ing stage. Two years lat­er, I have grown into Dan 3.0: I’m more cer­tain of myself and what I have to offer the world. And I’m more cer­tain about what the world has to offer me. At the same time, I have real­ized that every stage, every iter­a­tion, is “still in the test­ing stage”; there’s always more to change and dis­cov­er.

joy for what lies waiting

I’m excit­ed and chal­lenged by the pos­si­bil­i­ties inher­ent in “still in the test­ing stage.” And that brings me to this blog’s title. It’s a line from a poem by Scott Cairns. In “As We See,” Cairns con­sid­ers our inabil­i­ty to see God — and the ease with which we keep Scrip­ture “quite still, pre­dictable.” He then describes an alter­na­tive to this con­trol and will­ing blind­ness, say­ing

Which is why I’m drawn to — why I love — the way
the rab­bis teach. I love the way they read — open­ing
The Book with rev­er­ence for what
they’ve found before, joy for what lies wait­ing.

That line stuck with me the first time I read the poem in 2006, and I have returned to it many times since. Cairns offers a way to hon­or the past — “with rev­er­ence for what / they’ve found before” — while open­ing the present to dis­cov­ery and growth — “joy for what lies wait­ing.”

That’s not a per­spec­tive I have always had, per­son­al­ly or the­o­log­i­cal­ly (but that’s a sto­ry for anoth­er post). Suf­fice it to say that I have—live—that per­spec­tive now. I have learned to hon­or my faith her­itage as well as my own expe­ri­ences — they have made me who I am now; but that doesn’t mean I have to remain with them.

I have always approached the Bible with antic­i­pa­tion. I real­ly love to dig in and study; it brings me joy. I am learn­ing to look with joy for what lies wait­ing in all areas of my life, not in the God has a good plan for your life name-it-and-claim-it way that is so often heard in Chris­t­ian broad­cast­ing. Rather, I have come to see that God’s king­dom is for here and now, not the here­after, and I have a part to play in man­i­fest­ing that king­dom in tan­gi­ble ways.

“Joy for what lies wait­ing” encap­su­lates all of this for me. It’s a both/and per­spec­tive: both who I was and who I’m becom­ing; both what I’ve under­stood in the past and what I’m under­stand­ing now. And in the cen­ter of it all is God, gra­cious and ever-mer­ci­ful, patient and for­bear­ing as I grow in fits and starts.

For me, writ­ing and read­ing seem to be the best ways to par­tic­i­pate with God in this process. I invite you to join me here as I chron­i­cle the jour­ney. Share your thoughts in the com­ments below.

You can find a sam­pling of poems by Scott Cairns on the Poet­ry Foun­da­tion site; I’m par­tial to “Pos­si­ble Answers to Prayer,” and “Draw Near” left me speech­less. You can hear Cairns read “A Pri­or Despair,” or read it your­self.