So much of theological education involves interaction and time with the darker sides of the faith. The troublesome passages of the Bible are given greater focus so we can integrate them into a coherent system with the nicer ones. We learn to deal with death, with rejection, with suffering. We study and focus on all the things the church and world would like to forget exists, so we can be prepared to face them when we enter ministry.
This is not necessarily a bad thing. The world doesn’t reflect the nice images given to children in Sunday School. The people of God aren’t always immediately victorious and very bad things happen to everyone, even Christians. There are times of hope, however, that reminded me that sometimes good things do happen. When a person recovers from months of rehabilitation. When a baby is born.
On Transfiguration Sunday, my pastor spoke on the beauty of God. Amidst our suffering, incarnate in our filth and pain, God is still beautiful. Though scarred by sin, God’s creation and his creatures still reflect a measure of his beauty. There is beauty all around us.
I wonder if in the midst of theological study, I have stopped expecting anything good from God. I wonder if I have become so consumed in explaining how God reigns when so much evil continues to rule that I have completely missed what is going on around me.
The sacraments, in the Anglican tradition, are a holy mystery. We declare that Christ is fully present in the elements of bread and wine, but we don’t explain how. We affirm baptismal regeneration, but do not define the when, how, or what. In the liturgy and our rituals, we surround ourselves in the beautiful mystery of God. In these mysteries, I find wonder. As I physically participate in this wonder, I come to better know God and receive his grace in a special way.
As I look back on the last several months, I think I should allow more wonder and holy mystery to enter my theological study. Maybe I don’t have to make all the pieces fit together as a systematic whole. Maybe I don’t need to be able to fully define the how when I know the why. Maybe I don’t always need to expect the worse. God is beautiful. God is in his creation. Even the darkest of places can’t hold back all the light. The smallest crack in the curtains is enough to brighten a room in the morning sun.