how then we live

I

I've been thinking about grasping.

Perhaps the most notable use of the word in translation comes from the hymn to Jesus, "who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped."

But the use is not limited there. Eve grasps the fruit and Adam with her, Jacob grasps the heal, the wicked grasp the psalmist, the pharisees try to grasp Jesus, we cannot grasp the depths of God's love.

Grasping tends to be associated, at least in these contexts, with trying to lay hold of something that is not yours to have. Perhaps you try and take what you think owed you, or perhaps you take a lesser thing believing better will not be offered. In each case, it seems patience, trust, and contentment are needed.

Much has happened in the past several months. What I have learned and am learning is to stop the work of grasping. And with it, the work of doing what must be done here and now.

II

Ever since Jack's birth, the logistics of church have been complicated. Our home parish and the Anglican diocese that ordained me is two and half hours from us on a light traffic day. There has certainly been no practical way, especially early on, to transport our family to and from it each Sunday. So with the direction of our bishop, Hilary and I spent time in prayer about where we were to attend in Waco. Our bishop instructed us to seek a church that was Christ honoring, welcoming to our family, and would be a place where we would be specifically ministered to in a season of change, difficulty, and challenge. We found such a church, a beautiful expression of faith, and it happened to be Episcopal. Our bishop gave us permission to attend and we have done so happily for some time now.

Given the realities that exist between Episcopal and Anglican spheres in North America, it was prudent and right for me to resign my position in the diocese as Canon Theologian. We left on the best of terms and with a great and generous help from the diocese during the transition. But it did mark a season in our lives where Hilary and I asked of God serious questions about what we we needed to do, how we would navigate the next several years, what it meant to be faithful while albeit somewhat thrown by the circumstances.

Here, of course, is where God bests us. I had already been doing some work with Pure Charity for several years, completely in the background. My help on a contracted project evolved into new roles, to the point that right around the time I was stepping away from the diocese, I was stepping into a full time position with Pure Charity. Pure Charity builds world class fundraising and technology solutions for nonprofit organizations, which means I get the opportunity to daily work with people caring for refugees, creating sustainable solutions around the world, and so many others that some days I can barely remember which countries I've been in touch with in the past few hours.

I love this work. Love it in my bones, love it. And more than anything it fulfills something unexpected, which speaks to that whole grasping impulse. God has made it clear that for now and perhaps forever I am to be a deacon and not a priest.

Deacons have a colorful history in the church. The Scripture and its apocryphal interpreters tend to present a group of people that were tasked with going up, metaphorically and literally, to the Communion Table, pounding a fist on it a couple times, and saying to the priest, "Where's all the people you forgot to invite up here?" We're also tasked with knowing and keeping the Scriptures, educating God's people in knowing and keeping it themselves, and generally sounding off when injustice pops up. If any of you have been reading me for awhile, the jig is up and you know sometimes I swear, so I'll tell you pointedly that I think deacons have to possess the spiritual gift of bitchiness, which I think I have mastered.

That's a round-about way of making this point: I'm ordained in an Anglican diocese, I'm confirmed as one of them, but I'm in an Episcopal church context. It would be dishonoring to it as well as to my own vows to try and grasp a position within it, but God saw fit to place me in a job where I help organizations on a daily basis do the work of advocacy, calling out injustice, and getting to work. God is more clever with our stories than we are. I know this and I don't. I forget it so much it should frustrate God quite a bit if I didn't also believe God to be long-suffering. But God is, which is something I forget so much, too.

III

There was a time when I was considered a somewhat important Christian on the Internet. I sincerely don't know how. I'm horrible at brand—though I'm going to say something about that below—I never had a ton of Twitter followers, blog readers, book sales. I was just me, this blog, this chaotic trying to figure it out.

Don't get me wrong, I wanted the things. I wanted to be influential, important, interesting—lots of i words, there. So I published two books. They did okay. I'm proud of them, but I'm realistic about them. I was not the next So and So as everyone had assumed. My platform was and is small. My voice matters to a particular circle of people, but not to many beyond that. It's too liberal and too conservative, too liturgical and too evangelical, or maybe just super annoying. I'm willing to concede that.

Jack came along and our world changed. What was important changed. There was someone on Twitter once who probably didn't know that I saw them talking about how my brand of Christianity was affluence. I read that while on the phone with Medicaid fighting for my son to be granted one more feeding bag in a month that had 31 days when they had only approved 30. Things changed. We changed. What was important changed.

So when it comes to brand, I can't tell you much about it. I can tell you I still love to cook, drink good wine, commune with God through those things. I don't think you have to, too. And I'm sorry if it's not a way that you can. Or, perhaps, I don't think you're worse off. What am I trying to say here? I'm trying to say I no longer feel the need to define my Christianity in the online space because it's exhausting and I don't have the time. I'm chasing a busy toddler, grieving some real losses, learning ASL, advocating for my kid. And God, is there joy. What joy.

But it means I don't worry about writing books anymore. I don't have anything much to say, anyway. Someday I'll write about spirituality again, but it won't be this year. I am working on a piece of fiction, one I love in that way you love a wild thing, and though I could tell you it will be done in May, my agent and my God have given me permission to stop needing to grasp at that, too. It will be finished in the acceptable time. I have other things to be doing right now. Things in this community, in this house we have made a home.

So here it is, another thing, another departure of a kind: I have archived all my previous writing in this space expect for the letters to Jack; I am leaving Facebook except for posts via Instagram; and, I am giving myself the permission to let Twitter happen or not on any given day. None of these things fit me as they did once. They are not bad, they are not shameful, I do not hate them or think they did me wrong. They just aren't mine anymore. I need to stop grasping for them.

Maybe that doesn't make the most sense, but it's the right thing for me. So it's the thing that's being done.

IV

Jack is thriving. But Jack is coming to an age where his story must remain his to tell. Our commentary about it is less important and it's less needful. Our little man, full of life and love and so clever it could terrify you, conquers doctor's appointments and waiting rooms and third shelf hiding spots and TV cords and whatever he sets his mind to. And he sets his mind to a lot. I'll still share an update here and there on Instagram, but we are entering into that quiet of life where what is his must remain his. Even as I write this, he's pawing at my knee and bringing another book to read. This is where I belong these days. This is how we then live.

So many of you in this space—blog, Facebook, Twitter, beyond—have been so good to me and good to us. I can't thank you enough. I hold the kindness of it like stars—things you didn't think were yours to touch and things you think will burn out long before you appreciate them for what they are. Thank you for the kindness, the love, the correction, the encouragement. You have been friends in this journey. This all seems very odd to write, but I think you understand.

V

I'll still write a bit for some outlets that ask. Speak, too, when invited. But most days I'll just be in the thick of it—parenting, working, cooking. This is my acre, my measure, and for God knows how long I have been called into a season where I am to not grasp beyond it. So I curtail, I bow, I pull back into the space and let God decide its acre, its measure, and when it is mine to move on. I think that won't be for quite some time. I think—

This is not a narrative device. Jack has in fact brought me another book. My attention is needed elsewhere.

Love, for the last time,

P