Friends, I have to begin by saying how wonderful it is to be back "home." I had a very rejuvenating time away, but as I settled back into ministry here this week, I have really felt how "right" and "good" it is to be back home.
One other note on returning, before I share a devotional thought with you. I want to say a special word of thanks to everyone for keeping things moving along so smoothly while I was away during what was a very rough period of time in our world and city. I am especially grateful to the church board and staff who not only led beautifully and lovingly through those days and weeks, but who also went above and beyond to help make my re-entry smooth. They provided me with pages and pages of detailed updates and a prioritized list of things that I needed to focus on in the next few weeks. I am so grateful for such amazing church family, Board of Directors, and staff team.
Now, by way of devotional thoughts, I want to share one of my insights from my time of pastoral renewal...
As a progressive person, as a caring person, as a leader, and as a pastor whenever anything bad happens in the world I often experience a strong sense that I need to do something to address it. The "male fix-it gene" can also start to run rampant in me, seeking to step in to "fix" something that no one may have ever asked me to address!
Most of us have some part of this in us. It is not a bad thing. That desire to respond to moments of crisis is part of what led to our evolution as a species. Those who could learn from their errors and change behaviors, survived. (Think of basic lessons like: don't touch a hot stove that burns, don't drink dirty water that made you sick, etc.) We are meant to learn from the things that happen to us and around us, and then we can try to do our best to share those lessons with others so that they don't have to learn them "the hard way."
So while that instinct is always bad, I think mine was in a higher gear than was best for me or others. It was a real lesson in letting go and in trusting others when three tragedies occurred in the world, and it was 0% my job to do anything about it. That was the first time in my life that I had given myself 100% permission to let it go and let others handle it.
While I am certainly not advocating that we all stop caring, stop seeking justice forall, or stop working to make the world the best possible place, I am saying that everyone needs a break from it now and then. And, given all that is happening in the world right now, you might be more due for a break than you realize. I certainly was.
Taking a step back from politics and activism and arguments and on and on, even forjust a few weeks, gives you lots of helpful things. It gives you rest. It gives you some peace. It gives you a chance to evaluate your priorities. It gives you a chance to reflect on your life. And perhaps most important, it gives you some perspective. We can all fall prey to the old adage, "They can't see the forest for the the trees." Sometimes, when we are too close to something, especially something we care a lot about, we can lose perspective.
I am grateful to you, my friends and my church, for giving me a chance to step back and gain some perspective. I pray that you can also find some ways to step back yourself. Perhaps you can turn off the news for a couple of weeks? Maybe you need to stay away from Facebook for a month? For someone else, it might be changing the radio in the car from NPR to some Christian music (or even just silence)? I promise that the world will get along without you for a few weeks, and I also promise that there will be plenty for you to engage in when you are done with your mini-break.
This message really hit home for me on the last night of my pastoral renewal time. I chose to end that month by watching the movie version of The Shack for the first time. I'd read the book years ago but never made it to the theater to see the film. In the movie, one scene stuck out for me. Jesus and the main character, Mack, had just had an interaction in which (like the biblical Peter) Mack was led by Jesus to walk on water. They walked all the way across a lake together and had a great conversation on the shore. As they wrapped up, Mack turned to walk back to the other side and walked right into the water...sinking to the bottom just like normal. He turned to Jesus with a look that said, Why isn't this working? Jesus said to him, "This usually works better when we do it together."
My prayer as I return to active ministry with you is that we will keep our perspective as broad and clear as possible, which can always come back to one simple test: Are we doing this on our own, or are we following the example of Jesus? As the film said, life usually works better when we do it with Christ.