And you, oh desolate one, what will you do? Jeremiah 4:30a, NASV
Tuesday night, I attended a Presbytery assembly and totally freaked out.
Let me begin by saying I’d attended one Presbytery assembly before, sort of by accident. Last Tuesday was by design. I was stoked. Not only was I a full-fledged seminarian and “under care,” I was now a “commissioned elder.” I felt awash in self-congratulation at being thusly called to the holy service of the Most High God.
The first several minutes were blissful. I basked in the glow of eighty-plus pastors and elders, gathered together for the spiritual and practical governance of God’s people. The presence of God was palpable. And then, we installed a new moderator.*
Our new moderator is the kind of person who fills a room with good energy. The meeting attendees met his installation with hugs and a lot of laughter. They obviously knew him well and respected him highly. Our new moderator preached an inspired message that night. And at some point during his inaugural sermon, he mentioned that he’s about my age. That’s when the sky fell.
Suddenly, I flash back to the career I abandoned seven months ago. Forget “the call.” Forget the fact that I am living a life-long dream – attending seminary and pursuing ordination. I suddenly understand what I’ve given up…because our new moderator has it. The respect of his peers, a firm foothold in his career, old enough to contribute rich experience to his ministry, and young enough to claim limitless professional opportunities.
And here I am. Jobless. Anonymous. Years away from attaining a position, steady salary, or name for myself. A stranger in a strange land. Standing bewildered at the starting line of a race whose end remains, for all my planning, very uncertain at best.
A more gracious sojourner might have rendered a prayer along the lines of, “Into thy hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit.” A braver soul might have thought, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.” A less pretentious person might have said, “I am the Lord’s handmaid.”
The thought that immediately sprang to my mind was: “Oh, my God, WTF am I doing????”
Text shorthand for this concept is “OMGWTFAID?” If nothing else, I found myself this week in good company, because “OMGWTFAID?” moments are legion in the Bible. A few classic examples:
God tests Abraham
“Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering.” Abraham built an altar there and laid the wood in order. He bound his son Isaac, and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to kill his son and thought, “OMGWTFAID?” (see Genesis 22:1-18)
David and Goliath
David drew near to the Philistine. Goliath’s height was six cubits and a span. He had a helmet of bronze on his head, and he was armed with a coat of mail, and the weight of the coat was five thousand shekels of bronze. And he had bronze armor on his legs, and a javelin of bronze slung between his shoulders. The shaft of his spear was like a weaver’s beam, and his spear’s head weighed six hundred shekels of iron. And David thought, “OMGWTFAID?” (see I Samuel 17)
The Prodigal Son
The younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living. And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything. When he came to himself, he said, “OMGWTFAID?” (see Luke 15:11-32)
Initially, I thought “OMGWTFAID?” was a failure of my faith, and a vulgar one at that. But after some reflection, I’ve concluded that “OMGWTFAID?” may be the purest and most sincere prayer of all. It’s extemporaneous. It’s raw desperation. It’s unadulterated by manners or masks. We reserve it for those precipitous moments when, like Peter, we discover that we’re walking where no sane person dares to tread.
“My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”
It’s ironic, actually. “WTF?” moments happen when we hit a wall…or rock bottom. They can happen without warning. They always entail a moment of dreadful realization. And God is transcendently present in those moments of terrible clarity. When we become acutely aware of our nakedness and our blindness, the boundaries we so carefully cultivate between ourselves and the divine wear thin. In such moments, we have the opportunity to draw very close to God, indeed.
I suspect that God loves “WTF?” moments. Because when we find ourselves stripped of achievements, reputation, and our footing on the world, we can’t help but collapse into God’s waiting arms.
I mean, WTF else are we supposed to do?
*Presbyterian terminology sometimes suggests a sort of clinical detachment from reality. “Installation of a new moderator” is something that, ten years ago, I would have sworn my mechanic said my fifteen-year-old Civic needed to remain roadworthy. In Presbyterian circles, it means the ceremonial appointment of a chairman.
© Copyright 2012, Marian the Seminarian