Atlanta fades into the early fog of a rainy day—and with it, her buildings, her traffic, and her people, along with every marking of urbanization. A week has ended and another begins, in much the same way that one road finds its conclusion on the first-laid cobblestones of another. I think now, looking back, I did not live this week so much as the week lived me—instructing me in every way common to man.
Well it was that the week ended with rain—falling lightly upon the old quarry-lake, whispering in the trees which were once part of one great unending wood, though now they are sparse, thin, and little more than a failed attempt to keep at bay the growing metropolis that leaves no place alone. From Nana’s sunroom, I could almost see the city with its malls and shops and hurried people rushing too and fro—that is, till the falling rain met the rising mist to settle in one impenetrable shield of water about the trees, lake, and house. I took up a guitar and picked out a lonely sound. And so, together—those gentle strings and whispering streams—soothed this city-worn soul.
GA can be best described by the two conversations which ended it. Dr. BM, late of Cleveland, met me as I roamed the hallways early Friday morning. Questioning my choice of literature—namely, the Agrarian Essays of Wendell Berry—we embarked upon a conversation more akin to a lecture of faculty to student than of friend to friend. He interrupted my every remark. I never did make my one and only point—that broken as we are, even the most desperate among us longs for relationship. “You must listen to me,” he began again and again, going on and on about postmodernity being little more than modernity gone to seed. Mercy opens doors for evangelism, I suggested. “The two are utterly distinct and must not ever be confused,” he insistently countered, “for it leads to the errors of the last generation.”
Interrupted by time, I left, almost convinced of his argumentation…until I met with BS who shared of the spiritual shortcomings of the church, as it has ministered ineffectively with the brokenness of his own life. He has long grieved, and grown frustrated. I listened intently as he poured out situation after situation in which the evangelical church had failed to answer the great human question—How is it that I reconcile the splendor of my divine making with the sacrilege of my brokenness? Like one of those newer books, I found myself the odd-man-out in a three way conversation between Dr. BM and BS.
BS: How it is that the deep riches of the reformed tradition have perpetually left me longing for an expression of heartfelt worship and experience unlike that of so many evangelical churches?
BM: What do you mean, by perpetually longing? You must listen to me: don’t you see…
So it would go, all the while BS hoping beyond hope that his heart would find a resonance of compassion in the words and wisdom of Dr. BM; and the good doctor, going on and on, interrupting this statement and that, demanding a reply but not waiting to get one, and so on, till the exasperated BS shut down and, rightly so, closed himself to further dismissal.
As we drove along Peachtree, I asked, “BS, are you an INFP?” He smiled. “Yes,” he said. The buildings rose around us and eventually fell away as we hid ourselves in La Madeline’s where the smells of fresh bread and coffee stirred our hearts with a fullness of life often lost in the city. I am convinced that we Intuits are the bastard children of the modern age. Called to play by rules that are contrary as sight to a blind man, we stand as outsiders to a system devised by Keynesian Economics, Newtonian Physics, and Berkhof-ian Systematic Theology. No wonder Emerson, Thoreau, and Dillard chose places where such “models” could not confine the Intuit’s heart, mind, or will.
How many pastors, alumni, and commissioners at GA I met with, I cannot say: two hundred perhaps? The hours passed indistinguishable from one another for nearly four days, as later the city towers passed in as rapid succession, just as raindrop after raindrop fell upon the quiet waters of the wild places. I only remember the cry of the human soul—as Dr. BM demanded rightness and BS pleaded for mercy. Lord, grant a peace in this I pray. Grant us peace
A sigh. A reprieve from the modernists models. I sit free (among the woods) of the intrusive feelings of others. BM remains convinced he is right. BS remains convinced he is lost. I am a student of the common man, worn by the living of a week that lived me. History like the week rings like a tome, In the beginning… The week began. The sun rose. Clouds broke. A yawn and a stretch. Awake, O sleeper, awake. Lord, let me now awake.