Joyful Expectation | December 13

Joyful Expectation | December 13

Recently, my life has been filled with physical transition. The seminary schedule is one year of classes, a summer doing chaplaincy, another year of classes, a full year of interning with a congregation, then a final year of classes before entering into a draft and being sent forth to a first call or a PhD program (another possibility). All told, once I complete seminary, I will have moved eight times between 4 states since finishing my undergrad degree in 2015. That’s a lot. And trying to find some sense of continuity, some feeling of stability, in this time has been a constant focus.

Add to the physical movement the changes in my relationships (a marriage and the deaths of three close family members), the changes in my friends I have for support (three distinct groups), and grappling with discovering what God’s call in my life even means; the liminal time has become a norm for me. And while there are challenges that come with that, I have also begun to learn the ways in which God has been able to enter into this time and space in new, and completely unexpected ways.

In seminary, one of the things I have learned to embrace is that with so much gray area in life, that we need to be careful about using rigid binaries to parcel up our lives in the world. Lutherans are beautifully equipped for this through our use of the terms: Both/And. We say we are both saint and sinner. That we are a church gathered around both Word and Sacrament. That we preach both Law and Gospel. This paradox, though challenging for my brain educated to look for fact or fiction, has been freeing to reach out for. In 1 Corinthians 1:18, Paul writes “For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” The message about the cross (the Gospel) is not something which can easily fit into the categories we impose upon the world. As such, being freed to live in service to this unconstrained gospel means that the pilgrimage of my life will not follow a course that might fit into the boxes I want it to. It means that there will be times when I will have to pick up my cross and follow the Christ. But in these liminal times and spaces, that is when I have been able to, and hope to continue to encounter the crucified and risen Christ.

For it is in those experiences I hear Jesus speaking, saying, “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

by Ian Coen-Frei

This post is part of a series of Advent Reflections – “Joyful Expectation”
Learn more about the series at

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