What I need more than anything these days is time and space to think. And maybe breathe. Think and breathe. Right now is the time that I’d like to claim last year’s birthday present from Dixie: a silent retreat or a weekend at a retreat centre of some kind. It feels like life is barrelling forward and I’m just a passenger. It’s heading in a good direction I think, but everything is whizzing by and it would be nice to stop and think and evaluate where I’m at and where I’m going.
Seems most of my spare (i.e. non-job-related) moments are focused on the seminary course I’m to complete by June 10. That’ll be here before I know it and there is so much still to be done. Some days I feel confident that I can complete the course, other days I feel like it’s impossible (and I start thinking about asking for an extension, which I really don’t want to do).
I’m neither a multitasker nor someone who can effectively divide his day into segments for this or that. If I have something that needs doing, it’s on my mind exclusively (the corollary may just be that if I don’t foresee having the time to focus on and complete a task, I’m reluctant to start it). So my spare moments are consumed with “I have to do read this” and “I have to write that” and “I have to research the other thing”. I’m paying for the last three or four months which sort of disappeared without a trace. And my family pays for it, too–with my lack of time or focus on them. And I pay for it, because there are few clear moments.
I cherish those few normal, unencumbered, “present” moments. Like at supper time I was looking at the ingredients of the “Real Fruit” popsicles. I noted that they are largely made of fruit, but “hmm, it does contain sugar”. Pretty unremarkable moment by any standard, but for a split second after I had said that I realized that I was really in that moment, I was really there, really present–nothing else was on my mind. It was the pure joy of simple, every day, carefree inquiry, nothing else to worry about.
But if I do that too much, I won’t finish the course.
And because I don’t have much time to smell those proverbial roses, I find myself unsure of just what I’m thinking. And some days I feel like I’m teetering on the brink of something. I’m not sure that it’s a crisis of faith, exactly–or maybe it is, I don’t know–but I think regularly of those words by Robin Mark (which are likely just a rephrasing of something from the Psalms): “Make these broken, weary bones rise to dance again/ Wet this dry and thirsty land with a river”.
One of the workshops at the conference I attended in Chicago in February was on “The Spirituality of Preaching”. The workshop leader said that it’s common for pastors/preachers to have times of feeling unqualified inadequate or fraudulent. This was comforting to hear (that even people who are trained for that sort of thing have those feelings), except that I feel this not just sometimes, but often.
(As an aside, Dixie’s watching A Prairie Home Companion behind me as I write this [she wants me to say that she has it “on”, because she’s cleaning with the movie on in the background]. What a brilliant movie. It brings joy and laughter. Brilliant cast. I’m thinking particularly of Kevin Kline and Meryl Streep, but everyone is really good, even Garrison Keillor as himself. You should rent it.)
At the same time, there is hope, though I’m not quite sure what to make of the type of hope.
In his book, The Blue Parakeet, Scot McKnight posits that the general arc of the Bible is from oneness (Adam & Eve) to otherness (from the fall to Christ) and oneness (Christ as oneness, to be followed by universal oneness when Christ returns). This oneness is relational: my relationship with God, with myself, with others, and with the world. How God works out his redemptive plan (that is, fixing the “otherness”) is through and in covenant (!) community, first Israel and then the church. This struck me as such a beautiful way of expressing things and such a beautiful picture of our past and our future. And I see evidence of this community-as-redemptive-vessel in my life.
It seems that I feel lowest as the week progresses and I’ve spent much time in my own scattered, mixed up thoughts–when I’m left to my own devices. But meeting with people, particularly on Sunday mornings, is always a great encouragement. I find hope in that community. Maybe it’s just psychological, in the sense that they affirm me in what I do when I preach or whatever. But I think it’s more, too. I was thinking tonight about how I am not expected to be anything but me in that community–I’m not expected to be more “spiritual” or to behave a certain way. Of course as a community it has its faults, as any community does, but there is love there and there is hope. And somehow that restores me, if only for a time.