Friday, May 30, 2014

Living Between Ascension and Pentecost

The Ascension of Jesus kind of leaves us in the middle hanging.  Part of it has to do with the fact that it literally is in the middle: 40 days after Easter, and 10 days prior to Pentecost on the Liturgical Calendar.  However I think it also has to do with what happens on that day.  According to Luke (Luke 24:44-53/Acts 1:1-11) the risen Jesus is taken from the disciple’s midst and they are given instructions to wait in Jerusalem for further instruction (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:4, 8).  Jesus has told them that something or someone else is coming after he departs (e.g., John 14:15-31, 16:4-15) but they don’t really didn’t know exactly when or where, and only have a vague sense of what is coming.

That kind of ambiguity is disheartening to me.  (I like a more clearly defined plan.) Wouldn’t it be nicer if Jesus hung around long enough to make things more clear?  Couldn’t he at least wait for the promised Holy Spirit to arrive before leaving his poor disciples again? (Okay, it only ended up being ten days; but they didn’t know that at the time.)  That would make for an easier transition.  A modern analogy would be the “old employee” staying around until the “new employee” is in place, trained, and ready to assume authority.

But then again, I suspect the way Luke’s story actually unfolds is true to reality. More often than not, despite our best efforts, human life has a tendency not to unfold on the schedule we set up. 

Often in life, Ascension and Pentecost don’t line up.  

Sometimes new life comes rushing in before old can fade away; other times old life holds on to the bitter end, holding back the emergence of something new.  Usually, before something new can come, we must be willing to let the old pass, yet we have no guarantee how fast that birth will take place after the letting go.  Sometimes it takes much longer than we would have preferred. 

There can sometimes be a chasm between now and not yet that seems impossible to cross.

I am a writer.  I believe it is a gift God has given me and calls me to pursue.  Many have affirmed this talent of mine over the years and encouraged me to pursue it.  I partially live out my call through my vocation as a writer/editor for NASA.  I realize that not everyone does that, and try to remember that and be thankful.  However, I also admit a frustration.  You see, there is a dimension of my writing I can’t explore fully at work—namely, the faith dimension.

For a several years, I explored the faith dimension of my writing by contributing articles on a monthly basis for my church’s newsletter reflecting on issues of theology and spiritual formation.  I also had articles published on other on-line or print journals.  Recently, however, the church newsletter changed format, and other venues that I used to post material either no longer exist or no longer publish my work for one reason or another. 

Even beyond changes in publications, the type of writing I feel led to pursue has evolved.  In the past year or so, I have taken a couple courses in Creative Nonfiction, which is much more about using stories from our own lives to connect to larger Stories as opposed to simply presenting facts. The result of all this is that I am not writing as much as I did (outside of work) and, since I call myself a writer, I find that a bit disconcerting at times.  Sometimes I just don’t seem to feel much motivation to write. 

My writing seems to be in that uncomfortable middle between Ascension and Pentecost.  The old has withdrawn; it seems stale and no longer fits who I am.  The new, on the other hand, is not fully formed yet, but I feel it pushing me out my familiar patterns of writing to explore new possibilities.  This feels risky, but in a good way.  Still, I naturally hesitate to give it full expression.  I don’t want to rush it but I also don’t want to hold back for the wrong reasons.

What I long for is for the two halves of my writing persona, that have been so long divided, to be joined.  I want to find a place where science and faith can freely come together on a regular basis.  That would seem to offer the possibility of a Pentecost for my writing life.

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