Wednesday, August 10, 2005

faith story, part VI--now where did I read something about going into the desert?

Note to self: if running from one's own issues, don't move to the desert.

There's a reason all of those people in our Christian tradition found wisdom in the desert, although I'm not sure if it's the heat, the landscape, or the heat.

I might have arrived in Arizona with the burning desire to change the world through museum education, but it seems even I was in denial about what was perfectly obvious to everybody else.

(When, five years into my stay there, I finally joined an ordination discernment group, the collective response was "it's about time.")

However, I had done a pretty good job of convincing myself otherwise. I knew what kind of rupture that would provoke in my family. And thankfully it would never be an issue, right? Right, God? I even told God that I would do anything else, go be a missionary in a place without indoor plumbing, rather than be a priest. Ask me to do anything else.

It's so hard to encapsulate those eight years in Tucson in just a few posts. There were good friends. Good food. Hikes in the desert. Sangria in a summertime backyard under the stars. Cats adopted us. There were boyfriends, with the predictable good moments and bad. There was school. And there was church.

I found a church within bicycling distance (I learned to drive a few years later). On the first Sunday, the Rector announced that a reporter from the local paper had asked him what his reaction to "The Last Temptation of Christ" was. The Rector responded he didn't have a reaction because he hadn't seen it yet. He quoted the reporter as saying that was ok, because many people were giving him a reaction without having seen it yet. So the Rector organized a group to go see it after the Thursday evening contemplative service.

This was the church for me.

(Thereby also ensued a hilarious scene at the multiplex, when the security guards hired because of all the fuss, became very, very nervous at the sight of a large group forming around a man in a collar. They even kept checking up on us in the theater. Silly them. We weren't offended, but we weren't very impressed with the movie, either).

And for the first time, thanks to that contemplative service, which included silent prayer, reading and discussion during the homily, I started grasping for what I had been starving for. Real spiritual food.

Be careful what you wish for.


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