Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Podkayne and Providence

Hold it! Stop the machines! Wipe the tapes! Cancel all bulletins--
That, of course, is Podkayne again...and I am reduced to that same quite ridiculous level of adolescent emotion after the crazy ride that's finally come to a halt...and (praise God!) at NYC!
Were I even faintly and half-heartedly Calvinist this post would be about how this journey is about teaching to trust in God's Providence and whatnot. But I'm not. Not in the least, in fact. And so while I am profoundly thankful my gratitude is directed first toward those people who played their parts in making this miraculous turnaround happen. I would name them but I have a sad sense that such a symbolic gesture is quite empty; moreover, it may be something less than true thanks to associate unwitting people with this humble and occasionally blasphemous and heretical blog.
But here's how it happened. Even with the generous financial aid from Brent's home parish, diocese, and GTS, and my own scholarship from CSF, we still spent days and days trying to figure out a way for this to be enough, since living in NYC is so expensive. As part of that effort, Brent consulted a friend from church familiar with our situation and expert in financial matters, who looked over our prospective NYC budget and pronounced it woefully deficient in a few areas (for example, we decided to save money by not having any life insurance, which now that Clare's around, is more of a necessity than it used to be). And after it seemed like NYC was more out of reach than ever, this friend intervened on our behalf--the result being, we now have enough $$, even to amend our stripped-down budget into something more realistic.
What this means is, people who know Brent and people who don't know Brent all came together in order to help us out by doing extraordinary things on our behalf. The fact that these extraordinary things involve monetary gifts makes it all the more extraordinary in my opinion--this is America, and money is the bottom line: when people are generous with money, that's as generous as it gets in this culture.
Now, is this God's providence at work? I was joking with Brent (after the fact when it became possible to have a sense of humor again) that were we Calvinists our faith in Providence would have been sorely abused given the incredible reversals we've experienced over the past month. If, at every step of that ridiculous roller coaster, we had comforted ourselves with the belief, "well, if X is where God wants us to be, it will work clearly X is where God wants us" then the whole thing would just be such a cruel joke: God's will is NYC--no, DC--no, NYC--no, DC--no, NYC! It's so obvious that in situations like this--which are the only situations in which this doctrine becomes really important to people--that "God's will" is completely equivalent to however it is that things work themselves out. Calling it God's will is just a way of telling yourself, it'll be okay.
So, why not just tell yourself, "it'll be okay?" I did, every day; and I really believed it.
I don't mean to say that I was completely sanguine and cheerfully indifferent to how things worked out. No, not in the least. I desperately wanted us to move to NYC. Mainly, I wanted to be near my church: I want to be able to be involved more, help out more, be able to just hang out more, with these people who really are a family. I also wanted to be close enough to PTS that if I need to I can take a train and meet with profs who might otherwise conclude (reasonably) that I've fallen off the face of the earth. I want Brent to be where he wants to be and enjoy this year of Anglican Studies as much as he can. I want to live in a place that--despite being only an hour and a half from, and making weekly trips to for years now--I barely have gotten a glimpse of. I really, really wanted it. And now that I've gotten what I wanted, do I get to call that God's Providence for me? Does God's Providence=providing what I really, really want? Would a move to DC instead mean that God decided not to Provide this time around? Would I have to be mad at God for a year, and hope God performs a little better on the next test when we move again?
So while I'll happily call it providential that we're moving to NYC and Brent will be at GTS, I don't mean that God wanted us in NYC. I wanted us in NYC. God's providence for us is not located in NYC; God's providence in our crazy ride is located in the incredible way half a dozen people (or more!) came together to do their very best--which was very, very good indeed--to make possible what they discerned would be best for Brent and for me and for Clare. That's God working in the world in the only visible way I ever see it. And if it were the case that those same people had done the exact same things and yet we still couldn't move to NYC, it would still be God's providence: people acting selflessly to provide for us because they believe it is what God would want them to do.


Anonymous said...

In my one-year commemoration of the tornado I was wrong on one count. I said I'd learned that safety doesn't exist, which is true enough in that. I forgot to add something else I learned, which was that accepting a gift is both humbling and righteous. A true gift isn't something that's exchanged, it's something that may never truly be returned but which may be honored. We received true gifts last year. Seeing that you've received one (or several) now, it's just as incredible as it was then.

Hilary said...

so happy so happy so happy

what a delightful post of praise, exuberance, friendship, community, and good news

we can't wait to have you here either!!!

JTB said...

yeah, we don't get those much around here do we? it's nice to balance out habitual ranting with some exuberance and praise!

JTB said...

Interestingly, Casey's got a post on providence too...

I wonder how divergent our views really are? I suspect we're more or less on the same page, although a surface reading of our two posts might suggest otherwise.

nathansethjones said...

I'm thrilled for you, Brent, and Clare. And selfishly, for us, too. I know what those moments are like when things work out exactly like you want them to. How sweet it is!