Yesterday was Pentecost. The kids (who I remember being little kids) were lined up to receive the laying on of hands, and from the back in their white robes they looked like devout little angels. Until one of the boys began twitching his feet, and I remembered what it felt like when I was a seventh-grade confirmand.
They, like me at their age, have no idea what they’re doing. At the time, most of what I absorbed from our classes was amusement and strange prizes like dollar store lawn figurines. I don’t remember the memory verse I learned for that special day – in fact, most of what I remember from the day was the four of us almost spitting out the blood of Christ because we weren’t actually expending it to be wine.
In some ways, they do know what they’re doing. Some young adults refuse their confirmation, knowing it is not something they believe, but many others don’t put up such a fight. Others believe and want to live by the teachings of Christianity, but when one’s mind is consumed with brand names, budding sexuality, and the Jonas brothers, a pure heart is a lot to ask. For me, confirmation class was a foundation – something I didn’t understand until years later (and something I’m still not sure I do).
A person can argue the origin and development of humanity, the meaning of life, and the existence of divinity, but in my opinion, the absolute truth that a Baptist and an Agnostic can agree on is the idea that we – humanity – know not what we do. We’ve got all kinds of proverbs about seeing the forest through the trees, but try as we might, we can hardly see more than 2 feet in front of us.
Sometimes we don’t know what we’re doing and we make a mess. We choose paths because of who we think we are (and then we aren’t). We say things we shouldn’t and don’t say things we should. We chase after things that don’t matter and miss the things that do. We take our frustrations and neuroses out on the people we love. We love people that don’t love us and don’t love the people who do. We build brilliant defense mechanisms and render ourselves impenetrable. We crucify saviors. Then when we get a little distance, we have an ‘Oh Shit’ moment. Or several.
Other times, like in the case of the confirmation angels, we just don’t realize what a big deal the things we are doing really are. We pay attention to the taste of the wine and the gnome’s pink pants while missing the fact that we are comitting our bodies and minds to a structure of belief and a way of life.
Sitting there watching them got me to thinking about my time at Albion, and now that I’ve left I’m beginning to get some perspective. To retrospectively see what I was doing. Something I had been trying desperately to grab at when I started blogging during my sophomore year. Something I tried to force this in December, taking each evening to review scrapbooks, create timelines, and assign broadsweeping nouns to periods of development. But the candles, the Gonzales guitar, and the pile of pillows and soft blankets on the floor were still in the middle of the trees.
I’ve come to realize that in most of those four years, I had no idea what I was doing. Frankly, I probably still don’t. But I’m starting to see how the cards we all played got us to where we are. I can see that each of them built the house we live in now, and for better or worse, it’s what we have. And all things considered, it’s not too bad.
“God does not play dice with the universe; He plays an ineffable game of His own devising, which might be compared, from the perspective of the players (ie. everybody), to being involved in an obscure and complex version of poker in a pitch-dark room, with blank cards, for infinite stakes, with a Dealer who won’t tell you the rules, and who smiles all the time.” -Neil Gaiman