Someone once said to me "God draws straight with crooked lines." It was a powerful statement at the time - it still is. When I first sat down many months ago to write my "autobiography" several months ago that was the first thought that came to mind. Re-touching that for my seminary application brought that concept to the forefront of my mind again. I wonder if that's the reason so many diocese and seminaries require that as part of the application process. Sitting down and trying to distill one's life experiences to a few pages - I would imagine - teaches the writer as much about his own life as it does create a convenient way to let others "get to know" them.
And never have I had a more profound exposure to the fact that my life's journey isn't just a string of unrelated coincidences than in trying to put my life on paper. I mean - who would have ever thought that a journey that started along a little country road in rural Kentucky... that led to as diverse places as a small country church, a little independent New Testament church in Lexington, the Phillippines, Washington DC, a prestigious liberal arts college in rural Virginia and back to Lexington...and all the experiences that took place in between...
...who could have ever thought that such a varied, seemingly unrelated set of experiences could have led to discernment to the Catholic priesthood and entering the seminary this fall at the age of 34? I certainly could have never guessed it. And, for a very long time, it seemed like all of life that had led to this point was just a rag-tag set of unrelated experiences. There have been times in the last two years when I would really ask myself "What is going on? How can this be? It seems so unorganized...so unrelated."
But - you know - as I began to put words to paper - really tell my story as best I could... Well, I really began to see that there's no way I could be where I am today without all of those experiences. My journey to the Catholic church is rooted in my experiences in those small independent Christian churches throughout my childhood and young adult years - and in no small way a direct result of both my studies and experiences in college. Just just one of the "little coincidences" that began to string together to give me a confidence that they all worked together to bring me where I am today. Yes - taken idenpendently, without a view of the whole - it looks like a lot of crooked lines, heading in a bunch of different directions, from which no meaningful course can be found. But, when I took the time to put them down on paper, look at them as a whole - I'm amazed! All this time - in all these ways - through all these veried experiences, each pointing in what seems like different directions... well, when I looked at it all together, there's no doubt. They HAVE all been heading the same way.
This has one really amazing and lasting benefit. There have been times in the last three months when the several events of a single day or week really leave me feeling just as much as if I'm a ship adrift on the ocean - rudderless - with no direction. But I'm reminded of how often I felt like that in the past. How all of the "moments" that made their way into the autobiography seemed to be unrelated twists & turns. And - thank God - I'm reminded even more how they all seemed to be in perfect concert when looking back over them. The crooked lines are all an important part of a journey that does have meaning & direction. And so, in the moments when I feel adrift - when I can't see or sense the guidance, purpose or direction - now there is this peace, this comfort - I suppose its faith based on experience...that its all part of the same whole. All part of a journey that does have meaning, purpose, and direction - even when I can't see it.
Maybe you wonder sometimes, like I have, where the direction is - where the meaning is - whether there is some purpose to all the "crooked lines" in your life. If so, maybe writing your story will help you like it has me. Maybe you, too, will see the hand of God in your life - you'll come to know as I have that, its not just random chance. And, perhaps that will do for you what it has for me - given me a peace that, even when I can't see or understand in the moment, all of this really isn't just random chance and coincidence. It's all part of something grand, beautiful, and anything but random. Maybe you'll see - too - that God draws straight with crooked lines.