After taking one look at my face last week, a friend patted me on the arm and said comfortingly: “You know what they say. Getting back to work after vacation is like sitting on the couch for months and getting up one day to run a marathon.”
While I can guarantee you that I will never run a marathon—ever, I have been in the process of getting back to work after a desperately needed vacation this summer.
I spent most of the first week back getting caught up with latest developments, reconnecting with staff, and sorting through paperwork. While these tasks took a decided toll on my post-vacation zen, I noticed that my energy reserves significantly started flagging as (it seemed to me) folks emailed or lined up in person to tell me about various problems that had popped up in my absence.
You know, normal church, just in concentrated form.
I had just spent my weeks of vacation softening the sharp edges of some of my first-year-of-work memories, missing people I’ve already come to love, and remembering the hope and optimism and possibility swirling all around and throughout this amazing church. But it felt to me like I’d walked straight into a constant barrage of negative reports and bad behavior, and, as a matter of fact, I did begin to feel a bit like a couch potato marathoner by the end of that first week back.
So on week two I started out for work, steeling myself for more problems to solve, more crises to navigate, more stores of optimism dipping to alarming lows. Into my office came my first congregational appointment of the day, an octogenarian member I knew but with whom I had never had the opportunity to spend uninterrupted time in conversation.
She bustled into my office, settled herself on my couch, and pulled out a collection of papers, including a coversheet with a list of scribbled conversation points.
She started, “You know, there is a group of us who get together by conference call every Tuesday morning at 6:30 to pray. We started this little group last year when you came to be our pastor, because we wanted to pray for you. As you start your second year here, we all know it’s going to be tough. There’s a lot of change, and it’s so exciting, but some people are unhappy. So before you get overwhelmed by all the grumbling, I wanted to tell you that we are praying for you.”
I didn’t know.
Then she shuffled her pile of papers and handed me a creased paper with a numbered list. “Here’s our list of things we pray about,” she said. “You can see you’re there, on the list. We’re serious about praying for you.”
I’m not sure if she noticed, but tears started to well up in my eyes. I’d been expecting more problems to solve, yet another assault on the positive progress all over the church that I was beginning to think only I could see.
As she got ready to leave, this congregant said, “We know there is dissention, and some people are grumbling about change. But we are praying. And we are taking our job seriously. We feel that we are like midwives—we’re midwifing the future of this church we love.”
And it was here, in a moment of grace like this one, that I began to remember what I should have known all along: none of us ever does the work of gospel community alone.
We are, together, midwifing the future.