Thursday, September 8, 2011

Life in LOO'uh-vuhl (or Loo'uh-VIL if I'm feeling Southern)

I have avoided many personal testimonials on Artery Bloggage up to this point. The reason for that is because two of the unwritten goals of the project were 1) to keep my critical thinking sharp in my off year between teaching and seminary and 2) put all my thoughts into a format that would benefit others rather than growing stale in my head. I figured I would eventually get around to personal stuff, but most of it got wrapped up in some grander theological point. I think the most personal writing has been in the "Why I Am Reformed" series. I hope my readers have caught a glimpse through these entries how our theology and philosophy, our faith and reason, and our minds and hearts are all connected. Even the comedy pieces were very intentionally meant to fit into that larger theme. All that kind of writing must continue; I could not be myself if I couldn't devote myself equally to John Calvin and Burt Reynolds.

And let's be honest with ourselves. No one wants to read another emo Xanga.

Yet even with the memory of my black-and-red themed LiveJournal always looming, I know I need to spice things up a bit. A couple things brought this to mind. First, I hit a terrible writers block some months ago. I had nothing to do with a lack of topics. It had everything to do with being very busy with school, church, relationships, and preparing for seminary. I would have resorted to ghastly, agonizing scientific experimentation if I knew it would somehow type my thoughts for me. Second, I am not so naive as to think that most of my readership consists of facebook friends and friends' friends. Third, I moved to a new state and am still making friends. J.D. Salinger taught me that emptying out my social calendar can increase my desire for writing. Let's just hope that it doesn't end in the emotional neglect of my family and the madness of seclusion. Most importantly, God has used the move to teach me things and for His sake I'll set them to ink. Sort of.

I was supposed to move up to Louisville on August 9. That did not prove to be so. I drove back from my farewell Family Dinner at Katie Edwards' house in Rome Monday night and went straight to bed. I woke up at 2:30 AM with the most agonizing pain I have ever felt, localized on my right side. The pain intensified quickly. My entire family was awake within about fifteen minutes from the sound of my moaning. Mom had to talk me into going to the hospital, but the wisdom of her words soon prevailed as things stayed messy and excruciating. She suspected appendicitis while I suspected I was going to cost us a good deal of money on what would ultimately be nothing. Part of being a man, I guess. But as every pebble on the road en route exponentially magnified the suffering, I very quickly changed my mind. I'm as far from a practicing Pentecostal as you can get, but I certainly sounded the part as I pleaded in rambling chants for the Holy Spirit to remove this cup from me. Long story short: kidney stones. The vile concentrate passed two days later without ceremony. I was off for real, having missed a job interview in the interim.

I came into town with two pieces of furniture, two weeks of summer clothes, a computer, and some books from home. I knew I wouldn't have time to really read them once classes started, but I felt like many other mementos might distract me from my studies. Maybe I could use the books for a paper, I thought. Plus an impressive pile of books is academic swag even if you never use Marxist or Nietzschean literature at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

I was warned by a friend that there are two products of an MDiv program. The first are those who have been filled with knowledge about God, Scripture, Greek and Hebrew, and ecclesiology. The second are those who have been filled with knowledge of God, Scripture, Greek and Hebrew, and ecclesiology. The first are puffed up with their encyclopedic recall and vast workload. The second are humbled saints who learned a lot. The first made much of themselves by the experience. The second made much of God and learned how small they are in relation. I continue to pray that I would be the first.

So imagine my surprise when God showed up most powerfully to me in a coffee shop on a lonely, unemployed afternoon. I sat reading an Old Testament survey (to be reviewed later) and the Book of Leviticus. The verbosely-titled survey, God's Glory in Salvation in Through Judgment, is arguing that this statement is the main point of the Bible (or "the center of biblical theology", as the author prefers). I have come to see that this lens for reading the Bible brings the text alive in a new way. God is the main character and the whole point of the Bible; making much of "I AM" is the goal. By what means? Bringing to justice sin and unrepentant sinners, but saving His people through it. Do not suspect I have come close to doing it justice here. It is enough simply to say that I was trying to apply this principle to the text of Leviticus.

As I forged on, I came to see compassion and justice behind the innumerable regulations. Leviticus isn't just a book of obsolete rules; it is Yahweh's blueprint for a holy nation characterized by social justice, love, righteousness, and hatred of sin. I spontaneously praised God in prayer for the gift of His Word. He was showing Himself to me in a larger way than He ever had before. My passion for God and the Scripture (even the "boring parts") had never been greater. I took the opportunity to pray that He would keep me diligent in glorifying Himself through all my learning. This was sadly something I cannot say was the case at Berry, and I came home with more than a bit of lurking hubris.

All in all, life in Louisville is wonderful. God has grown me in wisdom. For those of y'all with maternal leanings, fret not. I'm making friends, studying hard, and got a job this week. I miss my FayCo friends, my students, my Berry brethren, and most of all my family. Please pray that I will keep the Lord in view while I memorize the twenty-four ways of saying "the" in Greek. Pray that I hate sin, love people, and preach the Gospel to myself and to all in sundry things great and small.

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