The Journal: Being Thankful

This is a few days late, but utterly necessary. Thanksgiving is my favorite time of the year. Its’ only rival is New Years, in which the two main ingredients of family and food also abounds. This year, as is customary for the past 4 years, the meeting place was at my aunt’s house in Reading, Pennsylvania. After spending Thursday morning managing my food intake so that I may be prepared for the feast that evening, I was glad for the driving abilities of my youngest brother, who turned a 4 hour drive into 3. The details will remain sketchy. Surely, you understand (smile).

When we got there, everyone had already eaten. This did not detour any of us from the joy we had as we partake in one of the best meals we’ve had since January 2. That night, as is beginning to be my custom for that day, I stayed up till 4 in the morning watching movies — not recommended during regular work/school hours. After going to sleep at 4, I got up around 10 to an almost empty house since most had gone off to see what the stores were offering. It was the perfect time to sit and reflect on what one is thankful about.

I am thankful for God who is not only creator but sustainer of life. In the last devotional message of the year — in which I dealt with the believer’s past, present, and future — I shared with the youths in my church the necessity for the existence of God. This can all be summarized in one of Jesus’ I am statements: “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6 NKJV). Thus, if the life-giver ceases to be then those who are living, or have life, ceases to be. However, though the word ζωή is the Greek that is used in the septuagint to signify the life that was given at creation to both man and beast (Gen. 1:30 and 2:7), some may remain unconvinced.

Paul, who has plenty to say concerning Christ as creator, sheds further light on this issue. In Colossians 1:17, Paul says that Christ is “before all things, and in Him all things consist.” “The form of the verb [consist — συνέστηκεν] in Greek stresses an original organization and a continued maintenance of the organization” (Nichol). Without Christ to continue holding the pieces that He placed together, they will not remain that way. We can’t ignore the fact that He does this for those who are with Him and against Him.

Furthermore, God so loved the world that He gave Jesus to die in place of it. This is also done in light of His foreknowledge that many of us would not choose Him. He could have been selective and offer the sacrifice for those that He knew were going to accept it. He could have went in another direction and not have given the sacrifice at all. However, move by love, God acted and thus we are offered the opportunity to be as we ought to be, Christ-like.

No opportunity to reflect on whom one is thankful for can pass without reflections on parents. Though parents may not have set out to give birth to us at the time we arrive, or were even happy to hear that we were coming, there should still be gratitude. For one, they could have had an abortion. However, they chose to partake in the divine call to parenthood. Thus, I am here and so are you. They are worthy of respect just because they are parents. It doesn’t matter if they have done anything worthy of it or not. God did not set a prerequisite for parental honor in Exodus 20:12. Instead, a blessing is announced for those that do.

I now turn my thoughts to influential individuals in my life. Most of them will remain nameless because upon my analysis of their personalities, I have realized that they are somewhat private and don’t like too much attention. I’m thankful for the many instructors that I’ve had growing up in my local church community. Perhaps they weren’t aware of the impact of what they were doing at the time, but God did. The fact that I am still in the church has a lot to do with their influence during those early days.

I’m thankful for a professor by the name of Dr. Ojwang who allowed me to think freely. He never shut down our ideas but allow us to reason them out to their conclusions. His biblical knowledge and language skills were so inspiring that I think he may be the one that influenced my wanting to be an Old Testament theologian. Most of all, I hold him in high regards for his gentleness. He is truly a “nice guy.” I heard that he played soccer with some of the students. Though it was not my sport, I was almost compelled to join.

I must also mention Dr. Benjamin and Dr. Jesse Wilson. I had Dr. Benjamin in my first semester for hermeneutics. This makes him my first theology teacher. Though he is truly a scholar, my relationship with him started because of the warmth that came from him. Dr. Benjamin was always smiling and always positive. It’s impossible to forget his trademark greeting, “peace, peace my brothers.” The ring of the English accent with those words made it ever more memorable. I also had the opportunity to work with him at his local church and that deepened my relationship with him.

I only had one class with Dr. Jesse Wilson, but who can forget the man. Out of all the professors I’ve met, he is by far the most happiest. He is always upbeat, always positive, and always joking. These type of characteristics made being around him an extreme joy. In his class I learned what it really meant to be in the trenches of evangelism; how to analyze what works and what doesn’t. His insights in this area were astonishing.

So there you have it. This is not a complete listing of what I am thankful for but it will do for the time being. What are you thankful for and why?

 

Works Cited

Nichol, Francis D.: The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary : The Holy Bible With Exegetical and Expository Comment. Washington, D.C. : Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1978 (Commentary Reference Series), S. Col 1:18

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The Journal: Why I Left Theology

2009 was a traumatizing year. I had just finished my second year of theological training at a university in the south when I received news that I was not going to be able to go back because of the finances. Initially I took it calmly because I knew that God was able to do something over the summer, if He wanted. I was also confident that theology was the direction that God wanted me to go into because I had extensive discussions about it prior to my going. I knew that things may not go my way, but I couldn’t let it be because of my lack of faith. So I had the audacity to hope.

As you can tell, there was no miracle. In light of this new reality, I began to question if my understanding of what God wanted me to do was correct. I thought I was doing it, but now it didn’t seem so apparent. Added to this was the fact that I had to come home and explain to family and church members what happened. It’s one thing if you make one general declaration that everybody hears at the same time, it’s another to have to retell a frustrating matter over and over again.

As you can imagine, this was not a fun experience. I anticipate that some would say that I should not have said anything. There are two problems with that sort of thinking. The first one is that in the Haitian community if one chooses to go into theological studies it is considered the greatest thing in the world–next to doctors and lawyers. Therefore not saying anything before I left would have been seen as disrespectful. Besides, they would have found out anyway. How can I go study something that deals with spiritual life and keep it from the church?

The second point that one has to consider is my personality. Had I been a person who was disconnected with the members of the church, then one can argue that I didn’t have to say anything. However, I’m a person who interacts with most of the members. The warmth, I suppose, that generates from me makes it easier for them to gravitate towards my direction. Therefore, to say that not saying anything initially and afterwards was the best thing to do is not only unrealistic, but disrespectful.

The words of encouragement that were given went in one ear and out the other. In fact, though they were considered to be words of encouragement by those who spoke them, they didn’t come across as such. I was in deep depression and didn’t care to hear what people assume that God was doing or is going to do. The idea of talking me into being happy and thinking optimistically didn’t sit too well with me. I was down and really wanted to be left alone.

I kept my composure and just dragged along, but deep inside I was very angry at God. I still went to church and I still prayed. That was evident of what I knew to be true: God is real. In my mind that fact was inescapable. I decided that even if I was given the opportunity to go back I would not go back. Eventually, to the dismay of many, I decided that preaching wasn’t something that I wanted to do anymore. The decision to give up preaching wasn’t really a difficult one because I didn’t consider myself to be a good preacher and I had no intentions of being a pastor, I wanted to be a theology professor.

In spite of my decision, this year I ended up preaching on two Sabbaths and speaking at countless youth devotions. Some view this as a resurgence, but its really not. Base on my understanding of spiritual gifts–given to be used, I do plan to continue to do youth devotions on Friday nights, but to avoid the pulpit on Sabbath mornings–to the best of my ability. I’m leaving the preaching to the ministers in training and the aspiring preachers, of which I’m none. It is the only way that I can deal with what happened.

When viewed in light of what I could have done and where I could have been, I view the two years spent in theology as wasted time. I may be wrong, but who really knows but God? The experience has affected my view of what one can do in life. I use to believe that there is something set aside for everyone to do, and maybe I still do in theory, but I have reasoned that since this is not a perfect state of existence, one has to do what will bring financial stability. This is the fundamental reasoning under my decision to major in Accounting.

This is not really an encouraging piece is it? The reality is that sometimes we need to hear about the journey before it ends. The typical way of dealing with experiences is to not only tell the ones that have good endings, but to tell them after a glorified end point has been identified. We rarely hear from those who are currently going through things. This is one objective of this piece, and as you can tell it is not for the faint of heart.

Why did I leave theology? I didn’t leave, rather, I couldn’t go back. But now, I have left and do not plan to go back. I’m not fully content with the way things are; I’m better suited for studying history or something of that sort. However, since money is what is talking right now, I have lend an ear. My experience is not over. Despite what some may say to encourage me, my experience is still my experience. God, whom I am convince exists and is active in human affairs, is doing something. When I know what it is, I will let you know. Perhaps the lesson so far is that I still believe.