To Be

I started getting in trouble for my ‘to be’ verbs in junior AP English. It was my favorite class of my whole school experience, but it was also the point at which i realized i was not the greatest writer of all time. (WHAT???) My teacher, the legendary Mrs. McNulty, would take a red ink pen and circle every be, is and was, leaving the whole thing in a marked-up red mess for my further revision.

I didn’t really get what the big deal was, until I saw what happened when i had to eliminate those ‘be’ words and put in stronger components of speech. Ultimately and eventually, I’d wind up with some written pieces that were not too shabby for a kid. But the challenge to use strong verbs continued through college. There, a professor known mostly as “Tay” (kind of like Madonna or Sting–too cool for a whole name) wielded the red pen and returned a hot marked-up mess to me for revision.

What’s the big deal about “to be?” I mean, correct me if i’m wrong, but the whole concept made Shakespeare pretty famous. And while the vitality of the written world may thrive on stronger verbs, the vitality of the soul longs for less doing and more being.

Day 5 of sabbatical, and I’m keenly aware of the ‘to do’ part of my brain, trying to take over, while the ‘to be’ part of my soul is just starting to thrive.

On the way here, we stopped at a really posh resort in Palm Springs (thank you, Marriott employee/friends/family rate) that was basically a kiddie paradise. They had Nickelodeon fun zone, outdoor playgrounds, epic pools, water slide and splash yard with water canons, even. The kids had a ball, and crashed hard for a full 12 hours at bedtime.

Thing is, they are having just as much fun in Orange County, at Auntie O and Uncle Rob’s house, playing with their friend Tyke (and all his toys!), sleeping in, watching cartoons, walking the dogs, and…well, just being.

Sure, the tricked out kid resorts are fun. I’m sure they’d enjoy Disneyland (about five miles away) if mom and dad were brave enough to venture there (we’re not). There is lots to do and see, and we’ve got a full 8 weeks of adventure planned. But, at any given moment, they are pretty content just to be. Nobody has introduced them to that red-ink part of the brain yet, and I am just as glad. My goal is to take a lesson from them. To stop being a writer, a preacher, a pastor, a planner, a manager, and a compulsive do-er and just be–where i am, who i am, and whose I am, with grace and gratitude. Amen.

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Some light road trip reading. You’ll notice there is no red ink pen for marking up richard scarry or dr suess

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Sharing an outdoor bath, west-coast style, with Tyke. As Auntie O says, “two pk’s in a pod.”

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About Erin Wathen

Rev. Erin Wathen is the Senior Pastor of Saint Andrew Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Olathe, KS (www.sacchome.org). She's a Kentucky native, a long-time desert dweller, and she writes about the sacred thread that runs through pretty much everything. For more info, click the 'about' tab above...


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