For three weeks, I've been searching for time between traveling and visiting my family to study for my ordination exams. Tomorrow, a few dozen seminarians and candidates for ordination will meet in the Knox room at PTS to take the Theology and Worship ordination exams - six hours of testing, some of which is open book. The next day, we'll take the church polity exam, and then be given a passage to exegete in a paper to be turned in next week. All of this to determine whether or not we are sufficiently educated to become Ministers of Word and Sacrament. I think it's fair to say that it's an intimidating process.
I spent most of today sitting in coffee shops and bookstores reading. Seeking refreshment during a study break, I wandered over to the poetry section of the bookstore I was in. One of my professors at CU used to talk about how we need poetry because it "slows us down." When we are frantically running about, chasing after a hundred tasks at once, the blank space on a page or inverted syntax or clever turn of a poem somehow can calm, slow, and make peaceful our minds. It's one reason why the biblical writers and prophets so often used poetry - it's the natural vehicle of epiphanies. So I decided to slow down. First with a few poems from Wendell Berry's Given and then with a few more from Czeslaw Milosz's Second Space.
Both books struck me with the calm quiet faith that stands behind the writers. Berry's book wrestles with tension between the mourning of death and the hope of resurrection. Milosz examines the process of growing old, naturally turning toward faith. And in the face of death, both writers words are filled with peace. Their lessons reminded me of the need to slow down, reflect, and savor life as a gift - a challenge when studying for the tests that impact the rest of my life. This week I've felt a need to be prepared spiritually as well as intellectually for these tests. I don't know how possible this is, but I want to go into these tests with a worshipful and prayerful attitude. So, while I will study a bit more, prayer and now some poetry will also accompany my preparations, and I pray that God will settle the nervous hearts of everyone else who will be taking these tests tomorrow.
"May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us;
establish the work of our hands for us -
yes, establish the work of our hands."
-Psalm 90:17 TNIV -