Competing for spots in my imagination

The day before I returned to VTS for my senior year, I went searching for something in the cupboard under the stairs. The light flickered and hiccupped, casting faint shadows on the cramped, box-strewn floor. The winter coats and old military uniforms brushed me heavily like a gas station carwash. I pulled and pushed boxes of books and elementary school projects out of the way. With a dozen or so boxes disgorged from the closet, I found what I was looking for. Three plastic tubs. Three dusty plastic tubs, each nearly two decades old. I carried them into the living room and lined them up. I slit the packing tape off the first one, opened it, and was met with piles of my childhood.

I began sifting through the legos, pulling out flat black and grey pieces and every human figurine I could lay my hands on. After several hours of collecting, lego pieces littered my living room floor like an abstract mosaic. I fitted the black and grey pieces into a grid and sorted the figurines into groups—knights and pirates, naval personnel and more knights. Another hour and my creation was finished: a lego chess set, complete with knights on horseback and kings in mail and helm.

I spent every rainy day of my childhood and some of the sunny ones building with legos. For many years, I followed the instructions meticulously: each piece went in its place, and when I was finished, I had duplicated the image on the box in three dimensions. At some unidentified point after I had hit double-digits in age, I began straying from the directions. Eventually, the sets I kept prison-like in their own boxes began to mingle. Soon, I had three plastic tubs (they were neither old nor dusty yet) piled high with anachronistic castle legos and futuristic space legos and realistic city legos, all together, all competing for spots in my imagination. I put the directions away and just began to build, to create.

Until the day before returning to seminary, I had not created anything with legos in nearly a decade. But the act of creating infused me with joy. I created videos in high school. I created music in college. And as I began to contemplate God’s movement in my life, I accepted God’s invitation to enter more fully into God’s creation.

Thinking about the call to serve God might prompt one to ask the question: why was I created? But I think this is a faulty question. To reach a better understanding of call, the question should be asked in the present tense: for what am I being created? God’s call in my life is a continuously present reality, always pushing my self-defined limits of possibility. The very act of calling assumes an act of creation, for accepting a call is simply the acknowledgment that God is already at work molding me into a better servant, a better giver, a better lover. I think this is why Paul says that whoever is in Christ is a new creation—new creations that are ever new because of constant and continual creating.

I believe that God has barely begun to create me. This thought comforts me when I realize how much I still have to learn and chastens me when I think I have everything figured out. I have perceived enough of the edge of the expanse that is the life with which God has challenged and blessed me to know that only with God’s help can I respond to God’s call. This call in me is nascent; I am still being formed, still being created. But God has known me since I was in my mother’s womb. Christ is with me until the end of the age. And the Holy Spirit moves my life, always pushing those limits of possibility. I hope that through God’s love and grace, the work God has begun in me is a good one. I hope I can respond to God with a reflection of that love and grace. I hope I continue to catch glimpses of God’s creating movement in my life.

God has invited me to participate in God’s creation. I can comprehend nothing so joyful, nothing so humbling as this. Those three old dusty plastic tubs are back in the cupboard under the stairs. The flickering light is off and the winter coats hang undisturbed. But I am still creating because God is creating me.

(This post originally appeared in the Fall 2007 issue of “The Call” newsletter of the Society for the Increase of the Ministry (SIM), a not-for-profit group that supports Episcopal Seminarians as they move from lay to ordained leadership in the Church. I thank God for this organization, and I thank SIM for generously supporting me, both in prayer and scholarships. Check out SIM’s website.)

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