Saturday, September 12, 2009

My New "Job" Description

This past week has been physically and emotionally rough, due to brutal side effects from some medication I had been taking and probably also cumulative stress through almost unmitigated overwork and overstimulation. Because of these things I missed the ordination of a friend and parishioner that took place in another state where I had been scheduled to preach, an event I had looked forward to for a several years. That grieved me and angered me, but during the week I also had some enforced quiet moments, although rarely far from electronic communication like email.

Electronic communication is, or can be, very exciting and beneficial. I’ve definitely been extremely blessed by email, websites, online searches, etc., in ways that I could not have known without electronics. I’ve made new friends, found old friends, collaborated on and written books, and studied online. But electronics are like the sea, at once incredibly wonderful but also unrelenting and destructive, pounding even rocks into sand. For months, I have been sleepless well into the night, my mind whirling with messages I’d read or needed to respond to or to initiate, not to mention what St. Paul calls the anxiety of the church(es). (I only have one, he had dozens.) Ministering to people, administering the ministries of others, wielding the sword of the Spirit, jumping into crises, teaching, nurturing the weak and fallen, lamenting the departure of both pilgrims and victims, welcoming neophytes, evangelizing the searching and the resistant, etc. etc. Not to mention seeing to my own spiritual health.

During this past week I realized that there is a lot in my life that is under my control—probably a whole lot more under my control than most people have the privilege of enjoying. I realized that I had allowed myself to become too busy, too pent up with too many things that demand my attention. Too many emails logging in at both home and church, more than I can give proper attention to. Etc. This is not a new lesson, by any means; there have been previous occasions in which I’ve learned that lesson and changed myself because of it—but stuff has a habit of creeping in, and patterns of life change, so that “accumulation” looks different from what it did before.

I took on this blog almost three years ago at the request of a number of people who wanted to see what I’d write, and while it was (and is) fun and cathartic and (I hope) useful to some, it also took time. I like these entries to be reasonably well written, even though if they’re read at all, like a newspaper they’re quickly out-of-date and rarely if ever referred to again.

Then I took up Facebook a few months ago. Not so much “quality writing” is expected, but a lot of information can be put out there and a lot can be read in a short time. Facebook is shorter and busier than a blog. I like it.

But when I found that Twitter is about 144 characters at the most (or whatever) to allow people to whip snippets of information to crowds of other twitterers, I snarled and refused to participate.

Then a day or so ago this verse from Job came to me: “Thus far shall you come, and no farther, and here shall your proud waves be stayed” (Job 38:11). The “you” in that passage did not refer to me but to the things that would overwhelm me if I let them. So I drew a line and took back some control. I realized that sometimes what God wants is for us to NO into all the world.

So now I will refuse to let things overwhelm me. Here shall their proud waves be stayed. I’m taking this on as my new “Job” description. Sadly, some emails will not get answered—not because I don’t want to answer them but because I just can’t. Those that do get answered may not get the polished writing I’ve tried to maintain. Even this blogpost is not going to be carefully sculpted and polished. Twitter can go blow. I won’t read church emails on my day off, and whenever possible I will shut down the electronics early in the evening.

My favorite time of the year is autumn. The nights are mild, often there is a very light breeze. There is beautiful music to be listened to in dimness. There is a wife to spend time with. There is a God to be simply enjoyed. Enjoying him is better than constantly serving him. Jesus called it the “best part”. I hope that by committing to this new direction I am being a better pastor than before; I think it’s good Christian living and a good example to set for others. If anyone doesn’t think so, be sure to send me an email about it.

1 comment:

shannon leith said...

this post was really helpful for me--------------- thank you for writing it.

i was sending a link to your church's website to a friend, saw your blog, and came here.

thank you :)