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
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.