Academy of Preachers.

I am two days into a five-day camp, and my mind has been kneaded and sculpted so much in these short hours that I feel my brain must resemble a beloved can of Play-dough. The kneading is a result of love and affection, and it is with the endless possibility of my new intellectual “toys” that I have begun to discover something I can hardly believe I didn’t notice before.

There is no escaping tension.

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The Tension of God’s Dance Floor

By: Kristina Heise
August 03, 2011

This week, thanks to the unimaginable generosity of the Fund for Theological Education, I am in Atlanta, GA, at a preaching camp hosted by the Academy of Preachers.

I am two days into a five-day camp, and my mind has been kneaded and sculpted so much in these short hours that I feel my brain must resemble a beloved can of Play-dough. The kneading is a result of love and affection, and it is with the endless possibility of my new intellectual “toys” that I have begun to discover something I can hardly believe I didn’t notice before.

There is no escaping tension.

Entering a group of ecumenical preachers for the second time in a few short months, I thought for sure that I would be struck by the boundaries that separate one Christian denomination from another. While the differences and traditions are ranging far beyond anything I could have imagined, I find that the humbling yet exhilarating truth of Christ far outweighs any doctrinal styles that we may have.

I am further encouraged to know that the stumbling blocks of my ministry also translate across denominational lines. Tonight I had the great privilege of hearing my camp coach preach. Rev. Mark Jefferson shared that despite having a Master of Divinity and working on a doctoral degree in Homeltics, he struggles with understanding the full magnitude of his call. He further grapples with how to explain the professional components of his call to the world.
Rev. Jefferson’s words truly resonated with me. He mentioned that in today’s world of doctors, lawyers, and business professionals, there is a social sense of weakness when trying to articulate the mystical, inexplicable components of being called to preach.

“There is no escaping tension.”

I was reminded of when I first began my discernment and I realized what it truly would mean to “carry the cross of Christ.” I had a friend for several years who appeared to have a rather one-centered upbringing in her family in regards to building relationships with the church. I knew that her experience had been extremely negative, and for the first few years of our relationship, we danced around each other when topics of faith arose. She knew I was a person of faith, but since my beliefs lived solely in my heart and not a church, there was no need for us to focus our conversations on it. As my work life transitioned from libraries to churches and as my calling became such a bright force that I had to share it, I noticed that our conversations became increasingly more disjointed.

Soon we not only danced around the issues of faith, but appeared to be on completely different dance floors. One night, I mentioned that I missed her, and was greeted with the response, “If you want to see me, you need to bring down the church talk.” The tone of that sentence created such a tension in my heart that I soon walked away. This friend, angered that I had crossed the difference and addressed our separation, wrote me a letter in which she closed, “it as if you looked at the successful careers of your friends and settled on the first thing that wouldn’t tell you no.”

Those words carry the key of my strength today. While they cause a part of my soul to ache, I will not throw that letter away. That tension, that horrible realization of what it means to truly carry the cross of Christ, is something that I return to. I especially return when I worry about my ability to be a good minister, to connect to people through my preaching, and fear losing my humility in the prospect of personal goals.

I am intentional about remembering those painful words and the grief of that relationship because they ground me in knowing that I did not settle by choosing a life of ministry, but rather have been lifted up in spirit and given the gift of seeing my true self. In truth, it was a struggle to find my life’s place. Before recognizing God’s recognition of me, I was lost and haunted. I was less than my true self, less than my God-centered self. Once I finally found my place, I became a transformed being. But that change was not an easy cop-out, an escape from the expectation of hard work or challenging intellect.

Rev. Jefferson gave me a gift tonight for affirming that the cross we carry in ministry can be a hard one to bear. That gift of his message continued to grow, as preacher after preacher shared similar stories of discovery and past lives. We are all filled with the tension of trying to explain to the world why we know the inexplicable is the purpose of our careers. Like our denominations, the variations were plentiful, but gospel which reigned true speaks of a righteous tension that is beautifully exhilarating.

This week continues to show me that this is God’s tension. It is the energy of bravery and self discovery, preaching to us in the sanctity of our souls, strengthening us to preach loud enough to reach others dancing on another floor.

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Photo (cc) via Flickr user dixie_law
Check out Kristina’s blog: Alive in Grace, where this entry was orginally posted.

Tags...: Inspired Leaders, Shaping the Future


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