By the end of this Sunday I’ll officially be an unemployed pastor – and by my own choice.
About a year ago, I realized that I was somewhere at the mid-point of life and felt this heightened burden to steward well the next chapters of my life. Betty and I felt the strong need to pray and discern what this next chapter might hold for us but the pace of ministry simply didn’t afford the time and space to do that (or more accurately said, the way I had chosen to carry out my ministry didn’t create the space and time to do that).
Last March we had dinner with another couple, in town from Vancouver, who shared their story in which they took a year off from pastoral ministry, and the idea was hatched. To be honest, the notion to take extended time away simply wasn’t on our radar – we never imagined we could do such a thing. But after praying it through, talking with friends and figuring out how we could manage it financially, we decided to take the plunge.
“But why?” people still wonder. I get that – this is not the usual thing to do. But I recently came across a quote from Henri Nouwen, the Catholic spiritual writer, that captures well the impulse behind this decision. It’s written to pastors but is applicable across the board. He writes:
“In general we are very busy people. We have many meetings to attend, many visits to make, many services to lead. Our calendars are filled with appointments, our days and weeks filled with engagements, and our years filed with plans and projects. There is seldom a period in which we do not know what to do, and we move through life in such a distracted way that we do not even take the time and rest to wonder if any of the things we think, say or do are worth thinking, saying, or doing. We simply go along with the many “musts” and “oughts” that have been handed on to us, and we live with them as if they were authentic translations of the Gospel of our Lord.”
I don’t want to go along with the musts or oughts that have been handed to me. Mostly, this decision is a response to what I’ve sensed is an invitation from God to examine my life and how I’m living it, opening myself to something new.
So here we go, jumping without a net, in the spirit of Abram who was called by God to leave but not told where they were going. Say are prayer (many prayers actually) for us as we head out going without knowing where to next.