Sitting in the passenger seat as we whiz through the streets of Bujumbura, I close my eyes to avoid sight of the crazed and chaotic driving required to cut across town. Pushing through knotted intersections with cars tangled in multiple directions, accelerating with a wish and a prayer-hoping to take advantage of a hint of an opening in on-coming traffic, weaving on uneven roads to dodge stalled cars, bicycle taxis, slow-moving mamas or a cluster of cows – all part of the daily commute. Closed eyes help me avoid the mayhem.
But I don’t live life that way. Quite the opposite, I watch everything, eyes darting everywhere. I am on the lookout for beauty, truth, for wisdom.
I live life with great attention to what is swirling around me and then run to the pages of my journal to capture it all in ink. As I write and reflect I see patterns emerge and connections ignite. This has been my practice over the years; inhaling life then reflecting as I exhale, inhaling experience then exhaling in a contemplative posture. In and out, in and out – I have been living life and doing theology. But I did the later unaware…
This summer I encountered a great description for doing theology – ‘it is a second-hour matter*.’ First comes life with all its buzzing movement – beauty, challenge and plenty of interruptions. That is the first hour – living. Then theology comes in the second hour, the reflection on life with all of its goodness and mess and accomplishments and troubles.
It makes perfect sense to me – we live life and then unpack it, trying to understand the what and the why. This process is doing theology! As we live life, then connect the Biblical text with our personal context (or story) we are engaging in theological work. This understanding has (a) demystified theology for me, making it more accessible and (b) helped me realize that I have been doing theology all along in the pages of my journals!
So first, live with eyes wide open. Then second, do theology!
(Now if I could only keep my eyes open as we careen through the city streets of Bujumbura!)
*’Doing Theology with An Eye On Mary’ by Valdir Steuemagel.