The talks on grace I gave in Czech provided me the opportunity to continue to deepen and sharpen my thinking. I call this sabbatical year a “grace awakening” for me, to borrow a title from Chuck Swindoll. I’ve undergone a theological transformation, one that would not have happened had it not been for the sabbatical year.
I would describe the theological transformation in my life, just as Bonhoeffer did when he described the change that took place in his theology during his year in Barcelona. Charles Marsh gives us this gem in his biography on Bonhoeffer. Marsh reports Bonhoeffer saying “he felt as if ‘a theology of . . . spring and summer’ were replacing ‘the Berlin winter theology’”.
I feel exactly the same way. For my adult life I’ve had a “winter theology”, be that Berlin or Chicago or Siberia. The theology whose virtues are perseverance, toughness, strength, reserve and escape. It’s the “let’s just get through this” theology of winter. The theology of the grey teflon sky.
This theology is being replaced by a Caribbean, or better, Mediterranean warmth. The bright sky and fresh warm breeze of summer. The theology of salty, citrusy air. The theology of the cool air of the high altitudes of the Jamaican Blue Mountains where some of the world’s best coffee is grown. The theology of sweet fruity drinks with umbrellas while feeling sand between your toes. A theology of a cappuccino sipped in a cafe on a piazza or of drinking a Pilsner in a beer Garten in Munich or Prague. The theology of the pastel colors of the little Italian island of Procida off the coast of Naples – Karla and I visited Procida in 2002.
It’s a theology of joy, pleasure and life. The virtues of the spring and summer theology are delight, rest, freedom, and presence. It’s a theology of the unbuttoned and free.
This transformation is happening to me because I’m beginning, only beginning, to understand what God’s grace and kindness mean.