Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Letting Go

A colleague of mine embraced Sabbath with her words on Facebook yesterday morning. She shared in a post how the laundry was piled high and life maintenance errands were needing to be done, before letting folks know that she would be embracing the good gift of Sabbath. I read her words in awe and wonder as though reading a travel book for a place I longed to go but had not yet been before.

I've never been good at keeping the Sabbath.

I'm good at not coming into the office on Fridays. My voice mail at church tells everyone that Fridays are my Sabbath. I start Fridays in prayer before proceeding to the gym. But I rarely make it through a Friday without running at least one errand and checking my email ten times.

I've never been good at keeping the Sabbath.

I believe with my whole heart that the Sabbath is a gift from God. It is a day when God beckons us to crawl into God's arms like a child climbs onto her mother's lap. It is a day when we can allow ourselves to be fully loved by God as we trust that God will tend to whatever it is that we normally do. There is something powerful about stopping and trusting and being still.

But I've never been good at it.

And yet, here I am on my second full day of clergy renewal leave. I have been given the good gift of a generous grant to do what makes my heart sing. For three months, I get to take absolute delight in stepping away from the demands of pastoral ministry in order to travel, read, write, exercise, play, pray, worship and stay up late on Saturday nights. I've done my very best to prepare our congregation and staff. Hundreds of emails have been crafted and sent with detailed instructions on how to continue the work of the church. A gifted ministry intern knows what to do if a pastoral care emergency arises. A minister emeritus is on call, too. My task now is to embrace the gift of extended time away.

The Psalmist reminds us to "Be still, and know that I am God!" It's not a sentence that ends with a period. Rather, there is an exclamation point at the end. God is serious about our being people who allow God to be God - God who is alpha and omega, the beginning and the end. God who is creator, redeemer and sustainer. God who can calm the storms and provide a way out of no way. God who is almighty and all powerful.

Why is it that we have such a hard time letting go of our control and accepting God's desire to lead, shape, form and reform our lives? And why is it that we believe we know what is best for the church when it really is God's church? And who taught us that the church cannot possibly thrive without us? And why is it that we fail to receive one of the greatest gifts God offers - rest and renewal accompanied by a promise that God will take care of us?

I'm trying hard to listen for God's voice which requires me to quiet myself down and let go. I'm seeking to be still. I'm praying to find that space and place where I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that it is God's movement in my life and in the life of our church that is the most important thing.

I'm learning to slowly let go. In the meantime, I am caught up on my errands, have cleaned out the closets and gone to Goodwill. I've purchased a cute dress and paid some bills. I sent enough emails yesterday to have a church member tell me that "you suck at sabbath leave."

It's hard to let go. Very. Hard.

Be still, and know that I am God!

I'm trying God. Lord knows I'm trying.


Susann said...

Be gentle to yourself! When is the last time you have had the chance to breathe. Really really breathe? I'm guessing it takes more than 48 hours to get that ability back.

If you've been away from the gym for a long time, you can't run 8 minutes straight on the treadmill. You need to re-train your muscles.

If you've been away from rest and relaxation a long time, you need to retrain your heart.

Anonymous said...

It is hard. I've lived it for a couple of months. I know! But it is worth it. You'll hear God differently. You'll understand your calling differently. And, your parish will thank you later!

Brian Felker Jones said...

Blessings, Donna . . . you are gonig to have a blessed and wonderful time and come back an even bigger blessing than you already are to MVPUMC!!!