My Season of Pause

My Season of Pause

Going through the process of certifying as a Candidate and then Local Pastor Licensing School took me out of my regular routine at my home church. Where I had once been fairly regular in attending worship services and active on various committees and teams, I now found myself holding back. I entered a period of “pause”.

Lent is a time of reflection, introspection, repentance, contemplation, and preparation. I’ve been doing all those things since before Lent began. I’m still on pause, but at I think I’m beginning to understand it better.

My pause has been because I’m struggling with some personal demons (some of my own making).

  • Admitting my own shortcomings and weaknesses as a disciple of Christ in the face of being appointed to lead a congregation of the Church Universal
  • A growing feeling of failure about the youth/young adult ministries I’d worked on at my home church
  • Sensing a distinct change in the atmosphere of my home church
  • A changed perspective on some relationship issues
  • Fear of not being able to replace my private sector job with anything financially or otherwise equivalent
  • No longer being able to deny that my husband’s health has declined significantly in the last year

Those are the things giving me pause that I’ve been able to identify so far. I realize these may not be all the issues, but as I figured them out, I had a starting point.

God, grant me the serenity …

There is one issue I can take off my plate immediately: my husband’s health. I can’t change the outcome and neither can he. COPD just works that way.  He and I can make adjustments, revise plans, and carry on. But his condition is out of our control.

Losing the job I have is out of my control. My boss is retiring and he’s earned it. He’s kept me on far longer than he needed to and I both know and am grateful for that. I can adjust financially to some degree, and I will eventually find another private sector job, but I can’t save the one I have.

… to accept the things I cannot change.

God, grant me the courage …

Working on becoming a better disciple fell in line with the commitments I’d made for Lent: develop better spiritual discipline habits, spend time reading and studying the Word and relevant books, work out a worship plan of at least 6 months for my anticipated appointment, avoid Twitter and Facebook.

Sometimes the things we can change … change us.

The devotional I’d picked to start February 1 (The Wesley Challenge; Chris Folmsbee) not only walked me through some much-needed soul-searching as it took me through 21 of Wesley’s questions asked in Methodist class meetings, it inspired a sermon series that was the kick-starter I needed to begin working on the worship plan. It also led to more questions about what it was to be a Methodist and inspired a second series based on a book I’d already read (Community of God: Theology of the Church by a Reluctant Pastor) that seemed to build on the first book’s lessons.

I still had those questions raised by the devotional, though, so I ordered a third book (The United Methodist Way: Living Our Beliefs; Kenneth L. Carder). It was a good choice. Almost every question was answered, and I gained a third sermon series in the process. My worship plan now had an over-arching theme of “Walking With Wesley”, and I had a much keener understanding of my denomination and, more importantly, what it is to be a disciple.

And more questions. And subsequent book orders that resulted in even more questions. And some revelations.

… to change the things I can.

God, grant me the wisdom …

Sometimes the things you think you can change, you can’t.

You can’t have a relationship by yourself and, unless you were the party who wronged the other, you can’t fix one by yourself no matter how hard you try or how much effort you put into it. Sometimes your apology goes unacknowledged and theirs never comes. Sometimes they demand a concession you cannot in good conscience make. And sometimes a compromise it would take to repair the breach would only enable them to continue the behavior that caused the problem in the first place. Sometimes the best you can do is put it in God’s hands, and move on.

Something happened during the year I spent certifying for candidacy and going to Local Pastor Licensing School that changed my perspective of my home church. Perhaps it was becoming more aware of doctrine, discipline, Methodism. Perhaps it was hearing about what other churches were doing. Perhaps it was a realization that some things never change is more than an excuse and every bit of a comfort zone that people don’t want to leave. Perhaps its something to do with church politics or dynamics or perhaps its all in my mind.

Whatever it is, my “home” church has begun to feel less like home and that’s perplexing. I’ve been a member of that church for thirty-one years, raised three kids in it, and received my calling in it. One would think it would be my Aldersgate. The questions I have as a result of the studying I’ve been doing this Lenten season have only added to the feelings I’m having. I’m still working my way through it. Perhaps it will pass as I move through the first year of my pending appointment. For the time being, it’s something I can’t seem to change.

As for the youth and young adult ministries, for some things their season is brief and their ending is not a failure, but simply an end.

… to know the difference.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 (NRSV) says:

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:

a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to throw away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.

… and, for me, a time to pause.

This is my time to pause, to reflect, to look inside myself, to make changes where I need to and can make them, to give myself time to consider things, and to prepare. There is no guilt in failing; only in not trying at all. I’m not perfect. I make mistakes. I sin. God loves me anyway. I’m working on what I can identify. I’m praying for the rest.