-Rev Melissa Fain-
Well, it's official! The sabbatical is over! This Sunday the live cast starts up again, and as you see from this page, the meditations are picking back up too. I'd like to say I climbed the holy mountain, and I have returned an enlightened individual. I didn't. (Actually I crawled the holey mountain of a dark and muddy cave.) I'd like to tell you I worked on a dissertation for a doctoral degree program. I didn't. (Actually, I played with my kids, and did little to no learning.)
I did something I needed to do. I was a mom. I spent time with my kids without deadlines looming in the distance. I did things that are approachable, and relatable. I'm human and I acted like a human.
Pastor in Latin is shepherd. The shepherd in the Ancient Near East ate, slept and walked with the sheep. It was not glamorous, but it was relational. That was how I spent my summer, being relational.
And this relational time wasn't all sunshine and lolly pops. There were times I struggled, worked, and didn't personally reap anything from my actions. You might be wondering, why would I go on sabbatical and do things that didn't always lead to personal gain? Because not everything is about feeling good.
I can't believe this has to be said, but life isn't easy, and it wasn't made to be easy. With every bounty something has to be sacrificed. With every gift, something has to be given. Christianity has somehow fallen into this self-help trap.
There were times I was doing things that didn't help me at all. Maybe it was doing something for my kids, or a group I was only going to be tied to for another six months. These small acts of sacrifice were just that, small. I know how incredibly lucky I am, and feeling just a touch of sacrifice reminds me that there are many that are living in situations where gratitude is having a tin roof and a two-liter water bottle light, if that.
Now, before you think I've started with one meditation, and I've gone off on a tangent, let me tie these two points together.
I spent my time in prayer, wondering how I could speed up this process. (Remember, I've been at this for 1/2 a decade.) An image came to me. God's plan was like a ball that needed to reach the people. I was holding it in an airport waiting area. Meanwhile, everyone else was safely in the airport. I could walk into the airport and joint the people, but I'd have to leave the ball at security. I could keep the ball in the waiting area, but no one wanted to face the hassle of coming out just to go through security again. The catch being, everyone thought planes were still coming and going, when the airport had closed and no one knew it.
I guess what I learned is that I too was looking for the easy answer. I thought I needed to hold the ball (message) over my head and yell for people to come out to us. I discovered I found the correct location, the wilderness, but I found the wrong way to get people to it. We need to explain why their method has broken, and they are no longer in a working system. We need to explain why work and sacrifice is better than stagnation. We need to explain that a contrary attitude is correct when the contrarian is yelling that we are about to hit an eminent iceberg.
I like to draw images to help understand what is going on. The most important take away is the truth of my sabbatical: Fixing the system is pastoral, in that it is with the people. It is also pastoral in that it's not fun or easy. It's even more difficult when the sheep are comfortable in the air conditioning and sitting on comfortable furniture. We can all understand why sheep wouldn't want to leave that situation, but that's not where the food is. They're starving and don't even know it. The question isn't, how do we stay comfortable and change? The question is, how do you convince people who are comfortable, that their comfort is killing them? That's not about feeling good, but it's right.