Before getting to today’s readings I spent the morning responding to emails, composing cover letters to congregations where my name has been submitted for consideration, made some follow-up phone calls to my insurance company, then selected from my online newspapers and periodicals the articles I want to read today about the economy, politics, and trends in the culture. Bottom line, I gave this day over from the start to the way of the world. I did so intentionally.
For the past weeks I had recommitted myself to the spiritual discipline of beginning every day in God’s Word, in prayer and reflection and the Daily Office readings with the hope and intention of sharing my thoughts and questions about what the Spirit might be saying to God’s people on such and such a day here in this blog. This practice allows me to get my hands on God’s compass to navigate the chaos and busyness to come on any given day. Every morning begun here in God’s space increases the chances that whatever challenges are ahead I’ll pause long enough to think through theologically and act accordingly.
My recommitment to this practice came about once I found myself a vocational wanderer – loosed and untethered from a congregation a few months ago, though not entirely adrift. I’ve been privileged to lead worship in a variety of congregations, to preach, to preside at funerals, to participate in conferences as a floating clergy person, to travel to many different ports and to complete continuing ed courses on Evangelism, Mediation and The Way of Love.
But I haven’t been able to write a thing. I have started many posts with the whispers I have heard – the wondering questions I am inclined to follow down bunny trails. But each draft has remained unfinished – hijacked by something within – a still small voice from the junior me, the sense of unworthiness and of being on my own. Who am I to be suggesting this way or that of understanding a passage over against others more qualified, better educated, more spiritual, or dynamic than I? Who am I?
The unworthiness lie has reared its most ugly head often in this season of required self-promotion wherein I have to put myself ‘out there’, throw my hat in the ring, describe my gifts to search committees and bishops. I am wont to talk about me and my suitability to partner with this or that community much more. Who am I to wonder what the Spirit is saying to God’s people? Though I had recommitted to the practice of sharing my thoughts here, I haven’t been able to. Some might call it a writer’s block. I’m experiencing it more like a thwart – keeping my wonderings to myself, feeling too vulnerable to share.
I have posted on Instagram a few photos that have reminded me of God’s presence no matter where I am. That mini-practice has helped keep me on track and has connected me with the online community of God’s church in new ways. But it doesn’t help me attend to the sense of unworthiness, coupled with a sense of failure that I am experiencing with regard to adding my voice to a meaningful conversation about God, God’s church, God’s kingdom come.
Of all times that I have the time to reflect deeply on God’s world and God’s word, it should be in this season of wandering. Wondering and wandering are totally compatible it seems to me. I have the time. I have acquired new language for communicating, new insights regarding the gospel’s attachment to the kingdom, tools for extending the reach of this blog. But I have failed at optimizing this wandering time – failed to step up and into the meaningful work of theological reflection.
I went to bed last night with the intention of up-ending the start of my day. Rather than with the Daily Office and the expectant hope that I would finally have something to say in this space, I’d attend to all the things of my world of which I’ve been remiss. I’d “be still” before my emails, attend to some unresolved family issues, knock out some cover letters, unpack suitcases, clean out the closets, make good on a promise to talk through a relational issue with a friend. A day dictated by a to-do list with no theological lens.
And that’s how it did start. But, as I was making my way through my emails, I was paused to read and reply to one that sort of laughed at me and my intentions. (to make God laugh, just tell him your plans).
The email got me at hello – the subject line: Just Wondering. Hmm. Wondering and Wandering. I read:
Subject: Just Wondering
How you are? Back from Denver and all conferenced-out? Renewal of spirit or flagging thereof? Caught in the daily routine or drawn to something more?
Simple, knowing questions. Words that speak to my heart – my love language. How I needed someone to ask!
Not great. Yes, back from Denver, no, not conferenced out. Renewed, depleted, renewed again.
I then went on in more detail, unpacking some of the reasons my heart has been distanced somewhat and in so doing I began to see why its been hard to allow the spirit to speak into and breathe life into daily life – why I have struggled to locate or hear what the Spirit is saying to this person. In responding to my friend’s query I was making known my vulnerability – the deep sense of failure I’ve been experiencing as God’s person to proclaim the good news in my little corner of God’s world.
And so after sending my reply and thanking him for speaking into my life with encouragement, I abandoned my to-do list plan and turned (repenting) to today’s readings and the morning psalm, Psalm 37:
3 Put your trust in the Lord and do good; *
dwell in the land and feed on its riches.
4 Take delight in the Lord, *
and he shall give you your heart’s desire.
5 Commit your way to the Lord and put your trust in him, *
and he will bring it to pass.
6 He will make your righteousness as clear as the light *
and your just dealing as the noonday.
7 Be still before the Lord *
and wait patiently for him.
Are you kidding me? How God works! First my friend’s query, Just Wondering, which then prompts me to recount all the reasons I had chosen to NOT begin my day trusting in the Lord, which then nudges me off my duff to get to today’s readings, and bam – God’s Word just waiting for me to inwardly digest. Just the word I needed to remain steadfast in the practice of starting every day here no matter what. To be still before the Lord at the start of every day with no expectation of some insight to share, some nugget to post but to dwell in his Word and in his world that I might navigate whatever lies ahead with his compass in hand and not my to-do list.
Praise God from whom all wonderings and wanderings bid us to repent – to turn from self back to God.
Daily Office Readings: AM Psalm 37:1-18; PM Psalm 37:19-42 Dan. 5:13-30; 1 John 5:13-20(21); Luke 5:1-11
And again I read TS, thrice now, and can only say “Praise God!”
Am reading also, for pleasure at night, James Runcies’ new book “The Road to Grantchester.” You remember, but of course, that I met James last year at a conference sponsored by the Church Times. In this new volume, James recounts the fictional character Sidney Chambers’ struggle to find his vocation in the priesthood. I keep thinking of you when I read of his discernment. But then that’s not particularly newsworthy since thoughts of you come unbidden on a regular basis.
As ever I remain, JJR