I’m sitting in the study in my parents’ house on a gorgeous Wisconsin December afternoon (rare but real). The snow is glistening, the sun is shining, the house is quiet, and I’m doing some thinking and planning for the upcoming year.
2016 will mark my 10th year in full time vocational ministry. It has been quite an odyssey since leaving seminary in the summer of 2006. I couldn’t have guessed any of it. I have learned and matured and grown and been challenged in ways I could never have anticipated. What God has done over those 10 years… my goodness. It has filled our hearts with delight. We’ve taken some lumps (everyone does), we’ve got a few bruises and battle scars (everyone has them), but we’re here. We’re standing. We have energy in our hearts for the future. And that’s nothing to sneeze at. It could easily have been otherwise. I’m proud of that. And grateful. So very grateful.
I know that not everyone is this way, but I’m a huge sucker for moments that mark. For “time-keeping.” To me, paying attention to the “signs that mark the days and seasons and months and years” (Genesis 1) is how we orient ourselves. How we know what we should be doing. How we ensure our efforts are in concert with the hum of the universe.
So I mark time. “Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” could be something of a life verse for me. When significant milestones roll around, I get quiet. I listen. I try to pay attention to the brooding of the Spirit over my soul.
As I stand here at this milestone–10 years–I am keenly aware of a deep need I feel to draw back a bit and reflect in more depth on who I am, how I’m wired, and what my presence and energy count for. Not just for the church I am privileged to serve. But for the world.
I don’t want to waste my efforts. I don’t want a minute of the next ten years to fall to ground in vain. I want to run with a greater sense of purpose, and clarity. So I’m pulling back. I’m going to listen. Harder. Better. I’m going to deepen my obedience.
This past summer I felt the Lord leading me to engage the discipline of retreat with a new intensity. So I took monthly retreats up to the mountains for solitude, reflection, and prayer.
Retreat is a funny thing. You get that quiet, that attentive, and all of a sudden you start realizing just how empty most of the sound we make is. And not only that, you start realizing how much our lives are dictated and shaped not by the Word that gave birth to the worlds, but by empty chatter. Our speech, you may recall, was given to us to name and enable (you might say “to bind and loose”). Often, maybe mostly, we use our speech in ways that oppress and confuse. Our tongue ensnares us. And others. Human words need to be disciplined by the Word himself if they are to be what the Creator intended them to be.
On one of my retreats this fall, the thought hit me that it would do my soul, my LIFE, a lot of good if I pulled away from social media for a year. Exit that noisy world in order to anchor more fully in the Voice that is resounding at the center of the life the Lord has given me.
At first the idea gave me a lot of energy. Then it scared the crap out of me. Then I started talking about it with people to see if I could get clarity. Back and forth I would go between energy and fear, and of course questioning my motives (which do I constantly). Is this a desperate plea for attention (it might be…ha)? Will people feel judged by what I am doing (they might…but I’m not really in control of that)? What about the voice/platform that God has given me for others (it will probably be there when I get back…right?)? Is it right to walk away from that (it might…or might not…)?
All the (vexing) questions…
The truth is that there is a long and venerable tradition in Christianity of ordinary people who were hungry for the voice of God pulling back in order to listen. No one needs permission to engage that tradition. If the desire is there, one is free to follow it. And that’s what I’m doing.
So part of my pulling back to listen is that I’m signing off of social media this year. Twitter, Instagram, Facebook. I’ll go at least a year (2016) and then evaluate after that. It’s important to say that there’s no broad-brush judgment entailed in this. The world has benefited greatly from the immediacy that social media has given us. But I think we’ve all felt the peril of it–each of us in different ways. I’m doing this for me. And when I re-engage, I’m trusting that I’ll do it differently because I will BE different. This is about transformation. The transformation that happens when we attune ourselves more deeply to God.
I should hasten to add that I’ll still be BLOGGING. (I just won’t have the platform to “share” it on…so we’ll see what happens with that…haha.) So this site will stay live, and I’m hoping that I’ll be able to write more given the channeling of energy that a social media cleanse is likely to produce. You can keep up with me here at the blog, and also over at the Bloom website where you can listen to all the Bloom talks. And of course you can always email me at email@example.com to say hey, talk shop, or have me come and speak at your church (which I’d love to do!).
While I’m away, I’d love it if you’d take the time to pray for me. A few things, specifically:
- As this moment represents a real marker for me vocationally, I feel now more than ever the tug to publish. Pray for clarity for me as I walk down that road.
- For the same reason, I feel the time is right to start planning for more education. I think the Lord has blessed me with a good head for higher learning, and that learning has always had a profound and almost immediate impact on my work. I’ve delayed getting back into school for far too long. Pray likewise for clarity there.
- I also feel the need to clarify in greater detail who I am as a leader, how I’m wired, and how and where my leadership presence should be put to the best use at Bloom. I have some plans for walking down this path of discernment, and am hoping to emerge from this year with my meter set on my pastoral leadership for the next stretch run.
And of course, you can always pray for me and the family–depth and joy and fullness and all of that. We’ll take all we can get :).
So that’s that. I’ll shut those few accounts down tomorrow and we’ll get started.
I want you to know that I take the voice you’ve given me seriously, and am so deeply appreciative for all y’alls support and encouragement to me here at the blog over the years. Please know that I consider myself a pastor to you, even if from afar and in this very limited way. Don’t hesitate to let me know how I can be a help to you.
At the end of one year, and the beginning of another, as always,
Grace to you,