I really get into stories.
When I was two years old, my parents took me to my first movie (Cinderella)–and then took me right back out again, because even though I knew the cat (Lucifer) in the cartoon was “bad,” I couldn’t bear watching Jacque and Gus the mice “be mean” to him, and I screamed my head off. I never did see the rest of the movie until it was released on VHS when I was in high school.
When I was a teenager watching Fiddler on the Roof and the tailor Mottel Camzoil asked a plaintive question about whether now wasn’t a good time for the Messiah finally to come, I sobbed my eyes out because of course I believed (and still believe) that the Messiah had come, and how awful for them (fictional or not) not to know Him.
When I was in college watching The Mission and the baby near the end in the mud and the rain screaming, I sobbed again, and felt like screaming like that, for the Slaughter of the Innocents which seems to keep happening, over and over again.
Nowadays, when my Paul and I watch action movies . . . or a recent (or upcoming–depending on which side of the Atlantic you reside) episode of a popular British period drama, he’ll look over at me and say, “You’re holding your face again.” I guess I usually am.
Guys. I realise there might be some doubt in some people’s minds about this, but I am able to discern that these movies are fiction. It’s just that a) I immerse in a good story and b) apparently (and I’m only recently starting to realise this about myself) I get really deeply disturbed by bullying and injustice. (It is arguable that I don’t actually do much about it, which I probably also need to start wrapping my head around, but I sure do get upset.)
So a week ago tonight, when our Seminary Dean–who has been laid off because of the shut-down–had to speak to our student-body about that very shut-down and what it means to us, I sobbed again. This was a true story unfolding, and I was, once again, immersed in it. I had thought I was over my upset at the news some days before, but . . . apparently not. There was a cake after the question and answer session, as part of a thank you to our amazing Centre Director (also laid off), but I was crying too hard to be able to countenance cake and socialising, even with a bunch of people I have grown to care deeply about in a very short time.
On the way home I had the strangest sensation of being absolutely spitting mad–or, more exactly, rolling-up-the-windows-and-screaming-in-the-car mad, except that I have to drive past the police station to get from The Seminary to The Cottage, so I just screamed in my head–but also having this rock-solid sensation that all would be well and all would be well and all manner of thing would be well. (Thank you, Julian of Norwich, for the extra-biblical quote I quote more than all other extrabiblical quotes.)
Then I started thinking about the crucifixion, and maybe it’s a little bit of a stretch to equate the death of a tiny Seminary no one has heard of with the death of the Messiah, but it really does feel like a death, and an unjust one, to boot. The Centre Director and the Seminary Dean are definitely bearing the brunt of this decision, and it’s pretty clear they’re in pain, because they have really personally invested in this place. Yet they did not once denigrate the Institution. They listened to other people’s fears and worries and even misplaced accusations with grace and patience. They fielded questions about decisions to which they had not been privy. All I could think of was grace, grace, grace. And therefore, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.
I thought about how this Seminary has such a focus on spiritual formation–the process of being “formed” more into the likeness of Jesus Himself, in attitudes, behaviour, speech–everything. And I thought that our instructors (the Centre Director, the Dean, the professors) in this process are not hypocrites. Of course they’re not perfect, but they have been spiritually formed, and even now they are being spiritually formed even further, and they are an example to us–to me, who has not moved far enough along yet to completely resist airing this stuff on the internet. But that was why I was crying–because here were these godly people, whose life’s work (at least recent life’s work) appears to be cut off before it was fully realised.
And I guess that’s why I thought of the crucifixion. And I thought about the disciples–the male ones and also the women–and how they felt when Jesus, the quintessentially godly, spiritually “formed,” was outright slaughtered. I’ll bet they sobbed, too. And screamed. Without the windows rolled up, and regardless of police stations. But did they know that “all would be well”? Because Easter hadn’t happened yet.
But now it has. And I believe in resurrection. And restoration. And reconciliation. And hope. I don’t know what those things look like in relation to The Seminary and the people here that I care about. But I believe in them, and I believe they’re in play as much here and now as anywhere and anywhen. Thank you, Jesus.