Chapel testimony: Living in a paradox
“I began to see that living in the kingdom of Jesus is living in paradox. Jesus transformed the very nature of this world through his redemption and reconciliation and yet there is still pain and longing in this world. The kingdom is the paradox of the now and the not yet.” Read more from second-year ordinand John White below.
I can remember how I felt last year as I sat in chapel during welcome week. I was nervous that somehow there had been a mistake at the BAP, and it would be revealed that I was an imposter. But I also felt that I had come home to a community that was exactly the right place for me. This paradox of apprehension and excitement was with me most of the first term.
That paradox is a big part of my learning from last year–that I hold within myself a paradox of thoughts and emotions that pull at each other. As I think through the rooms that I frequented last year, I can see clearly my paradox working itself out.
If I think of chapel, I think of times that I struggled to speak the liturgy. As if it was empty words that dribbled out of my mouth on to the floor, void of meaning. But then I can think of times where I felt God was so close and tangible that I could reach out and touch him.
If I think of the dining hall, there was a number of times at lunch when I wondered who these people were. I felt alone in the midst of people, like I was a stranger looking in. On the other hand, I remember times of encountering the deepest community I have felt. Feeling deeply known amongst friends for life.
When I think of my time studying in the library I can recall the anxiety and stress of trying to get my head around a huge topic. Rereading the same pages with no further understanding. Worrying more about my mark than my formation. However, I can also think of times when words leapt off the page like anointed truth, causing my faith to soar as I encountered worship and study mingling together.
I think of my house where my family bore the cost of my call. Being plucked out of schools and moved across the country. But there is also the laughter and joy that comes with new adventures and friendships.
I think of the room of my own mind that sometimes told me that it was all just a big act and I was not suited to ministry compared to others. But then there were times when I knew for sure that I was in the right place, pursuing the calling that I was made for.
These stories are the paradoxes that make up my testimony. As the year progressed I encountered time and again that beautiful Trinity College mantra, ‘Live like the Kingdom is near’. And I began to see that living in the kingdom of Jesus is living in paradox. Jesus transformed the very nature of this world through his redemption and reconciliation and yet there is still pain and longing in this world. The kingdom is the paradox of the now and the not yet.
Within the life of Jesus we see this paradox working itself out. He submitted himself to sting of death, but through this was the life of the resurrection. In him, we see the paradox of both death and life being held together.
And it is this death and life that I hold within myself as his creation. I can be honest about my imperfections, my death. But I am also full of goodness, my resurrection. And this paradox has at its centre the cross. The symbol of paradox. And as I place the death and resurrection of Jesus at the centre of my life, I encounter a pull of grace. A grace that covers my paradox and pulls me toward the centre, toward wholeness.
So as we start another year at Trinity I invite you to bring your paradox to the table of community. There is enough room for your paradox, both your brokenness and your wholeness. There is no need to pretend we have it all figured out. Instead we get to walk together as a community made whole by the ever-present grace and mercy of Jesus.
[This blog post was adapted from a talk given by John White in chapel, September 2017.]