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Touch of Gray

“And the Lord God commanded the man, ‘You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die…’
     [Satan] said to the woman, ‘Did God really say…  Surely you will not die.'” ~ Genesis 2:16-17, & 3:1b, 4

“Almighty God, who always moves in (complete) clarity of will and singleness of purpose…” ~ Opening to prayer from devotional book I’ve been using.

Reread the 2nd quote above once again.  What do you think of it?  Pretty darn phenomenal, even hard to entirely believe.  Some may even think it’s going too far to assert that, and it’s fine if you do.  Well, I don’t disagree with it, but man, there is certainly a lack of clarity surrounding much of my life at any given moment.

You ever wish you could say to God, “Could I just have only a touch of grey in my life please?”  It’s like sitting down at God’s barber shop and saying, “Leave just a touch of grey around the ears please.”  Or, could there be a box like the product above to help us through some of the grey matter and lack of clarity in our lives.

Well, there’s really no such luck, and it can seem at times like we’re stuck with all of the grey coming in completely naturally and in heavy amounts.  Just as well, I’ve always thought that I don’t think I will use a product like the one above on my hair when the time comes anyway (maybe I’ll change my mind in the years to come).

Well, if God has absolute clarity and singleness of purpose, why is there so much grey-ness in our lives and the world?  Do you think he could cut us some slack sometimes.  Actually, I wouldn’t be surprised if the problem is really more with us than God, and it probably is.

Anyway, in recent months I’ve struggled with an amount of lack of clarity surrounding one thing and I don’t imagine it clearing up anytime too soon.  As of last week Friday, August 7, I could have completed a third unit of CPE (Clinical Pastoral Education) in which I need to continue down the road of becoming a certified Chaplain, if that is the direction I am supposed to be going.  In the last year and a half I have completed 2 units and the difficult part is I need a total of 4, plus 2000 hours of practice as a Chaplain on top of that to finally be eligible for certification.  These units aren’t easy to get.  You basically enroll into an almost semester long course that involves a lot of time and work and no compensation.  You gain some once in a lifetime and vital stuff, but it takes a lot of commitment and dedication.

Just this past January, I turned down the opportunity presented to me to enroll into yet another unit of CPE for this summer because my family and I felt that the greater priority was to not tie myself into another unit in order to find work and more substantial income and maybe do more units as I am able from there.  Well, that CPE unit I could have been a part of ended just last week, and as I sit here presently nothing has happened that really needed to necessarily keep me from being a part of it.  That’s irritating to me!

Spectrum Health Hospital where I am currently working laid out a complete plan for me to do it and was willing to pay the tuition costs again.  These units are exactly what I need for chaplaincy going forward making them very hard to turn down.  Without them I can’t advance let alone hardly be hired as a Chaplain more than I already am.  Putting all of this together, along with the fact that I’ve basically ended up having the time and availability to actually do another unit this summer, has made looking forward to last week Friday quite hard to swallow.  Also, as I apply and interview for jobs right now I can’t help but think of all of this and get a little annoyed as a third unit would only immensely help.

Just yesterday I actually interviewed for two different chaplain positions where this dichotomy came up.  The first, a hospital position with better and more set hours along with better pay and benefits, spent a fair amount of time focusing on the fact that I only have 2 CPE units and forewent the opportunity to attain a third.  And the second, a part-time hospice position that you could say almost raved over the fact that I do have 2 CPE units.  For the first position, having a third unit would definitely increase my chances immensely and it is hard to accept that I had the chance (and I know now, the availability) and didn’t do it.  It seems more likely that I’ll get the second position mentioned, which I don’t want you to get me wrong.  It is a viable and good position, and I’d be happy to receive it.  It will also fit well along with my weekend third shift position giving me more hours per week overall.

I didn’t make the decision back in January to forgo signing on for another unit of CPE alone.  My wife and I, along with my in-laws, talked it over and thought and prayed about it a lot as well.  I was the main one ready to go ahead and commit to another unit, and then I also felt like I received some perspective and/or guidance from God that played a big role in my decision to concede.  During a time of personal prayer it became clear to me that our seen priorities at the time aligned more with finding more employment and with that increasing our income than other things.  That thought seemed to be placed clearly in my mind and with that I felt more peace with turning down the unit.

Now as 7-8 months have passed from that moment, I can’t help but to say, I just don’t get it, at times.  It’s hard not to think about the fact that I’ve been sitting here ready and able, and nothing.  It bothers me too that I also believe I received some perspective or guidance from God, and yet still nothing to show for it as well.

A couple weeks ago now (before any knowledge of job interviews) as Friday, August 7 was approaching, I found myself thinking and praying about all of this during one of my afternoon runs.  At one point I got a little heated with God in prayer, and then I was reminded of the passage of Scripture I opened this post up with from Genesis 2 & 3 and the discourse between God and Adam and Eve and Satan.  God wasn’t totally clear with Adam and Eve about his instruction to not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  Adam and Eve, having no reason to question or doubt, simply followed and obeyed.  Then Satan, seeing an open opportunity to stir up confusion and deception, chimes in causing Adam and Eve to wonder, is God holding out on us?

As I thought about these things on my run I am under the persuasion that I didn’t think of them all by myself.  I believe the Holy Spirit played a part in prompting me, and if so, wanted to remind me that I wasn’t the first to doubt, and question, and struggle with grey-ness on the part of God in my life.  Also, I was reminded too that God isn’t playing some sort of trick on me and wasn’t on Adam and Eve either.  Also, in this coming to mind, I found comfort as well.  It was like God saying to me, “Don’t worry!  I’ve got a handle on all of this.  You don’t need to fully understand, only trust.  None of this took me by surprise.  We’ll get through this together.”

Then, as I think of those lines from God above along with the title of this blog post and because I am a child of the 80’s, some of the song Touch of Grey” from The Grateful Dead rings through my mind–“We will get by.  We will get by.  We will get by.  We will survive!”

Today I actually got a haircut too as well.  Still there’s only just barely any grey around the ears or elsewhere for that matter.  And I am definitely ok with that.

“For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” ~ I Corinthians 13:12