Parish Interview: Tom Wharton
April 10, 2012 § 1 Comment
St. Luke in the Fields Blog: What was your formation experience like in the process to be Confirmed?
Tom Wharton: It’s been just about six months since I first walked into a Monday evening Eucharist at St. Luke’s on an impulse that I now understand was the working of the Holy Spirit. It didn’t take long before I realized that I was caught up in a current that I couldn’t, and didn’t want to resist. When I looked
around at the people at St. Luke’s, the commitment, the passion, the community, and the joy, I knew that wanted to be part of the Formation Group, although frankly, I didn’t really understand what formation meant. Looking back over the experience now, I can see that in addition to having been joined to a body of people with whom I feel at home in a life in Christ, I’ve also come away
two additional gifts.
The first gift is that I think I finally have a sense of who I am, and in turn how to be myself. For many reasons, this has always has been difficult for me. I think the main reason is that I’ve always been the kind of person who lives in their head. For a whole lot of reasons, it seems as though I was trying to think my way through life, planning and controlling events and people as much as I could to ensure that things would go as I thought they should. I don’t think I entirely
trusted my heart—which to me meant out of control feelings, which needed to be watch and kept under control like beautiful, but poisonous flowers. And, let’s face it, when you live in your head, there isn’t really much room for mystery.
I discovered that the Truth of God is a body, mind, heart, and soul experience. Because the formation process forced me to engage and question everything about myself—what I think, feel and believe, I came to realize that the way to God was to relax into the truth of who I am, and that all of us are wonderful, unique expressions of the ultimate Truth—God’s love. When I sit with this
knowledge, how can I not be happy and at peace. Being myself has become much easier for me. When I love, I am myself, the most myself I can be.
The second gift was the path to humility. The realization of this came during a Eucharist when we were all bowing while confessing our sins. I realized how foreign, unpleasant and unnatural the idea of bowing—humbling myself—was
to me. Maybe it’s an American thing. We don’t bow to anyone… we’re self reliant… we’re masters of our fate… only the weak grovel. I’ve learned through formation that when something feels unusual, foreign, or I have just plain resistance to something, there may be an opportunity for growth.
So, I gave into it. I started bowing and meaning it, and it opened my heart to the gratitude I have for my life and the knowledge that everything—down to every breath I take—is a gift. And, when I have so many gifts, gifts that I did nothing to earn, how can I not praise and thank God. At the same time, when I have been given so much in spite of my sins, how can I not love and forgive others who are no better than I. I guess it all comes down to the fact that the gifts of humility are gratitude and forgiveness. I want my life to be about gratitude and forgiveness, and I see the path is through humility.
Coming up to the Easter Vigil and my confirmation, I began to regret that the process, which had been so consuming, was nearly over. But on Easter morning, I felt completely different. I woke up realizing that this was just the beginning, and more importantly, I had the feeling that I had found my home—the place where I belonged. Home is where you are always welcome, where people are
glad to see you, and where you can just be yourself. Home is where your family is.
You take home with you in your heart wherever you go, and wherever my life journey takes me, I will have St. Luke’s in my heart. Through the formation process, I was lucky to have Robert McVey as my sponsor. The very first
time we met, he suggested that I write a prayer. I’ve revised it a few times as I’ve moved through the weeks and months. I don’t actually say it as a prayer—in some ways, who needs anything else buy what Jesus gave us in The Lord’s Prayer. But, the act of writing it and refining it has become a prayer for me, taking me back again and again to trying to express my deepest feelings about God.
Open my eyes.
Let me see your face
In all of your creation.
Teach me to pray.
Open my mind
To the language
Of your mystery.
To the music
Give me the courage to love.
For this day,
For my life,
For my people,
For my gifts,
Show me my work.
Send me into the world,
One, whole, shining reflection,
Of your union,
I reach for you,
And freely return
My life to you,
When my time comes,
Take me home.