I'm winding down, taking care of last-minute details, trying to make sure all is ready… so I can drop out of vocational ministry for 3 months.
Last Sunday I preached my final sermon for the next little while. And, coming as it did after a long night of sweating out a fever of almost 103, it felt a bit more like limping over the finish line than anything else. But regardless, what was wonderful was being prayed for, blessed and "sent" in a sense, by the community.
This week, after 7 years with few breaks (I don't think there's been a year where I actually used all of my vacation) I'm setting it down, stepping away and taking a deep breath.
To tell you the truth, it couldn't come at a better time. Even though I have felt some sense of recovery these last few months, I still feel pretty crispy around the edges, pretty low on reserves… And already, I can feel certain brain cells waking up again- just taking the weight of ministry off (not the responsibility to care, but the responsibility to do something about it) is opening up bandwidth. I feel like I'm having the emotional and mental equivalent of nasal passages opening after taking a hit of nose spray. Words, ideas… feelings. Ahh, there they are. It's good.
Some have lovingly questioned my desire not to disappear completely but to remain somewhat connected to the community through being around on Sundays. I'll admit- there's some risk there, but here's my thinking.
When we first started Evergreen, one of my desires was to help build and pastor in a community where I felt like I could take a vacation WITH the people I was in community with, not FROM them. I had been in plenty of situations where the second was true… but never really the first.
And for the first 3, 3 1/2 years or so, I think that's exactly what I had.
But over the last few years, something has changed- the dynamic flipped, and to be honest, I want to push back against that feeling. Yes, there are times to get away, to be alone or be with family or friends who aren't part of our community. But if I can't just be a part of things, can't be friends, can't worship with, can't recreate with, can't do life with these folks- if this is just a position or a job for me, from which I need to take regular and extended breaks, well… that may be okay for others, but it's never what I envisioned and it's not what I want now.
So I'm going to try it and see. Can I just show up and worship with my family at Evergreen? Can I be a part of our community without having to run things, adjust things (and as Dustin warned me this week) have the last word on Sunday? Can I just be an Evergreener?
I want to be, I know that. We'll visit some other places, I'm sure- just to see what God is up to here in PDX. But, in the past when we've done that, I've always left feeling very grateful for our little community with the knowledge that there's no other place I'd like to be, worship, fellowship, live and love.
This season will be my chance to do that in a new way- and maybe my only chance for a long, long time.
I'm looking forward to it.