Push Pause to Start

It’s been 2 months.

That’s 8 weeks of travel with young children; of shoe melting, hair frizzing heat and humidity; of trying to cram in a visit with every person i’ve ever known; of meals on the road; of playing tetris with blocks of time; of waking up in the morning to briefly–briefly–wonder where i was that day; of suitcase living, and all the wardrobe crises that implies…

Yes, sabbatical is supposed to be a time of rest. But when you are a parent of young children, the reality is–well, you can rest later. Whether you are travelling, working, or sitting around the house, there is always chocolate milk to be made, there are shoes to be bought, and stuffed “animal pets” to be found. There are band-aids to be applied and bedtime songs to be sung, wherever you may roam. And really, making, buying, finding, fixing and singing at someone else’s house is no more work than doing all those things in the comfort of your home.

Still, there is a weariness of the road that seems to multiply exponentially when the road has small children on it. For all the rest and renewal that our trip brought, I somehow stayed wired into ‘doing’ mode. And at the end of it all, I skidded back into church, sort of breathless and maybe dreading, just a bit, what kinds of chaos might await. I mean, were people still coming to worship? Was there money in the bank? Was the building even still standing?

Who’s been singing songs and putting on the band-aids around this place while i was gone?

Not to mention–who’s been talking about it?? Because you know… I’ve been off the grid. I haven’t been around to articulate the world from the pulpit; to write about it in blog land; or to send 8,000 emails a day filled with words, words, words… I mean, Chic-fil-a went all out Mel Gibson in the media while i was gone. What would the world do without my commentary??

Plenty, as it appears. I was going to tackle the whole Dan Cathy thing in my blog this week, but really, what hasn’t already been said? Maybe later but… The Jesus Chicken is just symbolic of all the ways life went on without me. Songs got sung. Scripture got read. Excellent sermons came from this pulpit, in no way attached to me. New people came, were welcomed and connected. Messes were made and cleaned up again.

And folks…it is summer time in PHOENIX, and this place was still full on Sunday. I didn’t do that. I haven’t been here doing it.

But everybody else has. In the pause. In the blessed silence that I left in the wake of my usual chaos, the Spirit kept moving.

So what i failed to learn on sabbatical about resting in the Spirit and letting go, I seem to be learning upon return. The clear evidence of ministry happening without my attempts at management; without my insight; and without my many, many WORDS to make sense of it all; the very life of this place seems to say, you’re not the boss of this. Relax.

Point taken, God. I’m going back to work now, but with a fresh appreciation for the ministry of others, and hopefully, a little less dependence on my own ability to do–or even say–the right things.

Truth is, the art of learning to ‘be’ is the journey of a lifetime, and not the work of a few short weeks. And while I spent a great deal of my away time visiting, talking and doing, I did get to rest my preaching voice, my writing voice, and that part of my brain that keeps a running commentary of the world on random shuffle. For a moment, (or several of them) I could rest, and yes, just be.

So, all told, it was 8 weeks; 8 weeks of travel and hurry, yes, but also 8 weeks of celebration; of connection; of good food from people’s actual kitchens, and good wine from actual vineyards; of getting to worship as a guest and not a facilitator; 8 weeks of hospitality, and of pilgrimage; 8 weeks to be a whole person in the world; and yes, 8 full weeks to watch that world go by and not say much about it.

Of course, now that I’m back, you might want to turn off your phone for awhile. And your computer…

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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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