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Nothing is Wasted

My faith doesn’t answer many questions, and sometimes it raises more questions than I desire.  But it does also give me Someone to trust to be with me, with us, in the midst of the uncertainty, questions, and unanswerable conundrums. 

When I was an adolescent, my Sunday school teachers cringed to see me coming—“She asks too many questions,” they complained to my parents, who were also worried about all the “but why do we believe…?” questions coming from me.  My life, my mind and heart and faith, just generated more questions than certainty, and this is likely one of the reasons that I sought ministry in an academic setting.  Questions seem more welcome in spaces like this one.

If you pressed me hard there are precious few things I am absolutely certain of, even though I have built my life on some of them.  I have convictions, experiences, and thoughts, while I have little proof.  It might be helpful sometime to list the things of which you are absolutely certain.  Here are two of mine:         

That God is love.

That I am not God.

If you pushed me a little farther, there is another thing of which I am certain, convinced, and on which I stake my life and experience. 

I don’t believe, like some, that God keeps bad things from happening, or that God gives only good things to those who love God, or that God dictates what happens in the world. Friends of God are not exempt from terrible occurrences in life, as life experience demonstrates.  And, then, no matter of love, time, healing can make those difficult things good.

But when I look back on life, which I am wont to do often these days, I can see in reverse that everything bad has also caused good for me. Experiences I would gladly give back in a heartbeat have also prepared me to care for others in ways I could not have then imagined. Skills I value in myself are products of moments and journeys I did not love.  My own spiritual life is based in the emptiness of loss, making space for other human beings in need and loss, understanding that the Holy One is present in those moments, sometimes more clearly than in joy.  I have the experience, now, of seeing something lovely grow in ground I thought was barren or ruined in my own life.

I call this conviction, experience, and certainty “nothing is wasted.”  God uses everything.  Anything can produce better, given time, given love, given the Spirit of life. 

Whatever burden is part of life today can produce a gift tomorrow without becoming good itself.  I don’t know how it works, but I have seen it happen.  This, among others, is a reason to accept the moment for what it is, to own the pain or joy or challenge of the day, to bless what is, and to have faith that the future will give us better perspective, and even opportunities to see growth from barren or empty places.  When you see it, it seems miraculous, however paradoxically painful it still might feel. The seed of hope abides in illness, in pandemic, in challenge, loss, or even horror, even when I cannot see or recognize it. This I believe.

What are you sure of? What convictions ground you in terrifying and anxious moments, and give your life meaning, and have proven true for you?  

Jan Fuller has been the University Chaplain at Elon since 2011. She is an Episcopal priest and deeply invested in helping students to find their own spiritual paths while interacting with others in differing paths with appreciation and respect.Raised in Beirut Lebanon for the first half of her life, Jan is the daughter of Southern Baptist missionaries to the Arab peoples of the Middle East. Jan’s education includes a Doctor of Ministry from Wesley Theological Seminary,a Master of Divinity from Yale Divinity School, and a B.A. in English and French from Hollins University. Jan describes herself as a “war-zone survivor,” who retains a sense of humor and love of gentleness. She loves Arab art and food, and all kinds of music. She intends to find the gift in every day and to live her life as a way of giving thanks. Contact: jfuller3@elon.edu

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