It is just hours before I would normally be preaching. Normally. When I’m not on sabbatical.
Which I am.
So… not tidying up a sermon, then.
Not thinking through the details of the service and wrangling kids into churchish clothes and making last minute calls or adjustments to liturgy.
Just, momentarily, instead, feeling the stab of it, the need, or something.
The first week or so of sabbatical was vacation - family, friends, break-neck pace of relaxation and events, hosting and cooking, playing and reading. Wonderful.
But earlier this week it began to prickle a little. To creep in around the margins. To wake me early with restlessness.
OK! Good! That was sure nice!
A healthy, appropriate ten-day vacation!
What am I doing?
Wait, what is this stupid idea, sabbatical? Who ever thought up this ridiculous thing? How utterly unnecessary! Clearly, I am more than ready to go back to work!
I’m itching to write a sermon. So that’s proof, right? And I am brooding about how things are going there and what might need fixing or tinkering, and I’ll admit, I am toying with the idea of phoning up a spy just to check in a little on how it’s all going.
Alright, and I’m feeling a little panicked at the lack of role/ responsibility/ identity/ structure.
I did a puzzle. For real.
OK, I did two.
That helped unclench the ball in my stomach – which would obviously not be an issue if I was working like a normal person.
The anxiety about the time stretching in front of me is a mixture of dread at how long it seems and alarm about it going by way too fast.
And can I really let go? Really?
I trust my congregation.
I trust God with my congregation.
I trust God with my congregation.
I am excited for their journey during this time. I believe it will be meaningful and rich.
And I believe mine will be too. But I am a little nervous that I wont let myself fully let go and enter in. I want to trust God with me too.
this morning, in the quiet dawn as I was walking the dog, I imagined placing the church in a boat.
A little wooden boat, sturdy and weathered.
I looked at the faces of those I worry about, I miss, I wonder how they’re doing, smiling confidently at me from their seats in the boat.
I lifted in the things I feel responsible for, the issues I left hanging open, longings and ideas that I have for the church that must remain untapped and dormant for a while, the tasks I do that I know someone else will do just fine, the worship services, the session meetings, my anxieties and my hopes, and one by one I slowly hefted or gently tossed them into this boat. (People politely shifted their legs around to make room for all my junk).
And then I pushed the boat off the shore.
I dug my heels into the sand and leaned my whole weight against it and pushed, soaking my feet and ankles and shoving it out into the current. Release.
Then I waved, and let my hand drop back to my side. And I watched quietly as it got smaller and smaller, the sunrise shining off the water around it as it rocked out to sea, calm and steady, farther and farther away from me, standing here alone as I walk my dog.
And in the silence I feel peace.
A little exposed and insecure.
I feel my fatigue. my strength. my body and mind and spirit alert and stirred up. I hear myself breathe.
Hi there, me.
What will we discover today?
So, tonight, when my gut starts to tighten up, I say a prayer before the worship service, and breathe in and breathe out. And I look up to notice the boat merrily bobbing along, way out there on the horizon, sails unfurled and full.
And I turn away and walk back off the beach.