Each month, I gather with other clergy members from this annual conference for what is called "Discipler Group." We gather to talk about how best we can lead our churches to celebrate in worship, connect as one, serve like Christ, develop as Disciples and share our faith. There are times when the gatherings are very rich and beneficial. Like anything, there are other times when I would rather spend my Tuesday morning somewhere else. One of the best things about the gathering is the individuals who I get to see on the first Tuesday of each month.
When we met for the first time this fall, our group discerned how best we would covenant with one another for this journey. One of the things that became important for us was to create space where there was no room for B.S. - but where we needed to be ourselves - to name everything that was happening in our lives - to bring it all to the table. We talked about how if we are trying to create authentic community in our own congregations, then we, too, needed to be authentic with each other. This desire to be authentic pushes and probes us in different ways - typically with difficult questions.
At the end of our time together on the first Tuesday of this month, our guide (who is our District Superintendent) asked a question, "Now, what is it that you are not saying?"
We had been talking about where we found ourselves in the middle of Lent, what was happening in our lives, and how we were growing. The guide continued, "What is it that no one knows yet?" The question pierced me, and I found myself opening my mouth.
I am spiritually dry. I have not had a regular prayer time or devotional time in months. I am thrilled by what is happening at the church, but I am exhausted. I yearn for time with God.
I then continued, "You know, it is so easy to say that we are pastors. We tell others that we are pastors, and people automatically assume that we are close to God. We stand up and pray in the midst of the congregation each Sunday, and people assume that we pray all of the time. But, I am having a hard time balancing it all with the development and the time it takes, along with everything else I need to do."
I was exhausted. It had been months since I had experienced a real Sabbath. It had been weeks since a church member did not call me on my Sabbath - on a Friday to ask questions that could have waited until Sunday (Why is it that people cannot understand that pastors, more than anyone else, desperately need a day away from the church and the people of the church?). It had been months since I had taken a 24-hour break from checking my email. I could not remember the last time I spent a Friday resting, worshipping and seeking renewal.
And so, I went to the Abbey - the week before Easter. I went to the Abbey to find myself again - to discover a life of prayer. I went, telling my congregation to not call me but to call the person on call. I went, and God pulled me back one more time. The Good Shepherd lifted me up, put me around his shoulders, and carried me back into his fold.