Sunday was our last day at Pres House as we were “sent” off by the community during worship and blessed. I must say that it was quite emotional for me–several times I found myself tearing up. I am incredibly grateful for the call to be Campus Co-Pastor along with Mark at Pres House, and for the people whom we serve and love. Leaving Sunday night, it was difficult to imagine not coming in each day and catching up with students and hearing about what’s going on in their lives. I realized how much I love being a part of this community and what a privilege it is to serve there. It gave me a taste of what it must be like to really have to say goodbye to a congregation–and I’m so glad that I will be returning to this community in four months, because I’m definitely not ready to say goodbye!
Well, of course, as it often happens after a busy season, I got sick. It’s not surprising, because Sophie had this cold earlier in the week, but mine has taken on an additional symptom she did not have. I have completely lost my voice–people can’t even understand me when I whisper. This is, of course, highly ironic given that I’m now in Louisville for a Sabbatical Grant conference with more than 40 other pastors–a bunch of preachers, and I cannot even speak one word!
Then again, perhaps this is a perfect way to start my Sabbatical. I’m doing a lot of listening and keeping silent, and as I do so, I realize how frequently words are used to explain ourselves, prove ourselves, justify ourselves. I’m meeting a lot of new folks, and the usual interchange happens: where are you from, what denomination, what church are you serving, how big is it, etc. This is quite an accomplished group of folks, so the stats are impressive and intimidating. And it’s a bunch of pastors, who let’s just say can talk…and talk…and talk. I can only listen, since my voice isn’t working, and cannot jump in with my list of credentials to prove I’m supposed to be here.
But it’s exactly what I need at the beginning of my Sabbatical. I am literally unable to make any witty remarks or intelligent comments to demonstrate how clever I am, or able to talk about what I’ve done or plan to do on my Sabbatical. I can’t even tell people my name! Yet it is a vivid reminder that there is no need to prove myself worthy to God, and for that matter, to anyone else. I am already a beloved child of God, and so there is no need for me to say anything. I can simply receive what’s being offered and I don’t have to come up with anything profound to say. Losing my voice forces me to live into the reality that I am already accepted and loved–nothing more needs to be said on my part. That’s especially relevant for pastors who spend a lot of their time trying to explain, prove, and talk their way into this truth.
That’s not to say I’m not ready to be healthy again! But being quiet, literally and spiritually, is helping to open up my soul to receive the abundant grace and blessings that God has in store for this season of rest. It’s a good, good thing. I’ll close with a couple of stanzas from a hymn that everyone else sang today and that I simply soaked in:
Come and find the quiet center in the crowded life we lead, find the room for hope to enter, find the frame where we are freed: clear the chaos and the clutter, clear our eyes that we can see all the things that really matter, be at peace and simply be.
Silence is a friend who claims us, cools the heat and slows the pace, God it is who speaks and names us, knows our being, touches base, making space within our thinking, lifting shades to show the sun, raising courage when we’re shrinking, finding scope for faith begun.