As we gathered in the Fellowship Hall Sunday morning for the Welcome Home reception, I found myself overwhelmed with gratitude and love. In fact, I was almost speechless, and I’m afraid the few words I spoke were disjointed and inadequate. My gratitude to the staff, my happiness in reconnecting with all of you, my nervousness in playing the banjo, my excitement over what God has done and is doing among us—no words seemed sufficient. Still, I hope you all could feel my joy in returning home to Christ UMC.
I’m afraid words will continue to fail me as I try to share with you what my time away this fall was like. Over the next weeks and months, I’ll be finding ways to tell you about it, but it won’t all come out at once. I don’t think I could write a cohesive essay on “What I Did over My Renewal Leave.” There were many experiences, many moods, many revelations, many ordinary days, many derailed plans, many prayers and many emotions that I’m still unpacking. There was peace and serenity, joy and laughter, pain and grief; but the gift was that I had time to walk through it all at an unhurried pace.
If you remember, one of the first things I did on my renewal leave was travel to the Isle of Iona off the coast of Scotland. It was a time of solitude, prayer, rest and reflection in one of Christianity’s most sacred sites. Believe it or not, the first day that I was there, my watch stopped. Just stopped. I took it as a sign and decided to leave the watch off for the entirety of the fall.
So much of my life is governed by the clock. You could even say “dictated” or “tyrannized.” It’s not the clock’s fault. It’s just a mechanical thing, after all. It was my attitude toward it that was the problem. Being on time is a good thing. It’s a way of being considerate to others, whom you don’t want to keep waiting. Even John Wesley instructed new pastors to “be punctual.” But too often that punctuality becomes hurry, which becomes anxiety and stress. When I’m in a hurry, I don’t notice the people or the world around me. I’m not present.
While I was on renewal leave, I didn’t have to hurry to do anything. And as I reflected on that, I remembered that Jesus was never in a hurry. Then I remembered something my mom used to say. When she passed away in October, I took some time to write down some of her old sayings: “Sally Sayings,” I like to call them. As I shared at her funeral, about half of those sayings were just different ways of saying, “Kiss my foot,” but another thing she said often was, “What’s your hurry?” When she interviewed for her first job, she told the interviewer: “There are two things you need to know: I have to have a week off for Camp meeting every year, and you can’t hurry me. I’ll get all my work done, but don’t hurry me.”
In the days since my mother’s death, I’ve been repeating her words to my soul: “What’s the hurry?” Most things in the spiritual life don’t happen in a hurry. Grieving certainly takes a long time. Healing takes time. Forgiveness, reconciliation, discernment, mindfulness–they all take time. We live in a world of instant gratification: I want it done now! I want to be healed now! I want to finish grieving now! I want God to answer my prayers now!
I want to understand where God is in my life right now!
But what’s the hurry? There’s so much to learn along the way.
I have a new battery in my watch and it’s back on my wrist, but I am asking God to help me guard against hurry in my life. Don’t worry. I won’t be thirty minutes late to the Trustees meeting, but I will, I hope, be more patient, more open, more at peace and more present. Mom would like that, I think.