This past week, I attended a talk by my good friend Welby Leaman, who spoke at a Faith and Work forum organized by Grace DC. He got his LSAT scores while doing a fellowship in a hospital in Nazareth, when he suddenly realized that he may actually get into Yale Law School. A former Harvey Fellow, Welby became ever more faithful to his initial credo, Reinhold Neihbur’s “Christ over Culture.” While climbing up the ladder of our culture’s top institutions at one of New York’s most blue blooded of law firms, on his way to become a Senator one day, he read a quote from the Archbishop of Canterbury (via Philip Yancey) that changed his life:Christians should live lives that would not make sense if God didn’t exist. This was profoundly disruptive to Welby. It is not that the rationale behind Christ over Culture is wrong. But there is something awfully fishy when Christ over Culture Christans (including himself) were living lives whose resumes were practically undistinguishable than those of non-believers. A few months later, he left his job to serve as an advisor to the government of Peru (where I met him as I describe in my reflections on calling at the TWI website). Peru was even more disruptive to his life, with more winded paths than he ever expected. But it is in these moments of greatest fear that he gave true meaning to the hymn “give me but Jesus Crucified.” He also realized that it is not just that our works were imperfect, but our faith as well.
This theme continued for me this past weekend, when I attended a retreat with the community of St. Brendan’s in the City (btw, what a wonderful small community; Bill Haley’s “ghost” was very present here). One of the retreat speakers’ main theme was about disruptions in our lives, and how peace is not always a good arbiter for decision-making. Encountering new realities and circumstances in our lives that we did not plan for is hard, but this is where the core of what we believe is truly tested, as we are refined in this process. I am learning to be comfortable with disruptions and seemingly contraditory tensions of life-shaping realities, often a product of divine orchestration or conversation with consequences. Steve had mentioned earlier this year about “the violence of grace,” quoting Victor Hugo’s characters, i.e. the effect of Bishop Bienvenue over Jean Valjean. Like the parable of the soil where seeds are allowed to grow (or not), disruptions are a form of grace, where truest truths are allowed to flourish or hearts hardened.