A week into August and I’m sighing over all the blog entries I wrote in my head but never published. It’s been a rich summer full of new friendships and priceless experiences, many of which have been fodder for thought and writing. Unfortunately, no one has invented a machine that can transpose my mental posts to the computer screen. Sorry, friends. To fill in some of the gaps that future posts will spring from, I offer you a mini-comprehensive summer review.
Exercise — Discipline has always been a weakness of mine. It’s not that I can’t ever be disciplined, but I struggle to be disciplined about discipline. Case and point: exercise. There have been times in my life when I worked out five days a week bookended by times when I exercised one day in five months. To be honest, I strongly dislike working out. People who say it is at all enjoyable must be a different species. Though I dislike exercise, I know I need to do it for myself. So since May, when I purchased a gym membership, I’ve been puffing and panting on various machines and in the pool.
Aquatic workouts have become the least hated of all exercise. The water welcomes me with its refreshing temperature after a day in the desert heat. Though the laps back and forth are monotonous, the white noise of splashing water and my rhythmic gasps for air lull me into an intense focus I couldn’t manufacture. In the water, I’m alone with my thoughts and its become an excellent time to forget that I’m working out, and work on processing the challenges of my life. The pool has become my prayer chapel, and oh the things I have to pray over.
Grief — I’m grieving over a seismic shift in my life. It’s as though I’ve suffered a tremendous earthquake which knocked down the solid structures of trust and honesty on which I built a primary relationship. Though not a death, for me this shift is a real loss that causes almost as many tears. Now as I swim or jog, or when pray and lay awake at night, I’m constantly holding an image of this person in my mind. I ponder fundamental questions like, who are you, what was real in our relationship, what suffering have you experienced that would lead to such destruction, how do I reconcile all this hurt and hope and betrayal with a love that will not let me go? The other day in the gym locker room an elderly woman told me that I swim quite vigorously. If she only knew what is propelling me through that water.
Bedbugs — In April I picked up bedbugs from a hotel in northern Arizona. I woke up one morning with these really itchy bites running down my leg. A few days later I had them on my arms, then more on my legs. Unfortunately, I brought at least one home with me, who then established a colony in my box spring. The problem is over now and I successfully kept them from spreading elsewhere in my room or house, but these bedbugs introduced me to helplessness. They exhausted my emotions and my checkbook quite quickly. I’d recommend that anyone planning hotel stays in the near future, educate yourself by going to bedbugcentral.com
Pastoring — Since May I have been serving as the Interim Associate Pastor of a medium-sized Church here in Arizona. This opportunity is one of the top five gifts I have ever been given. I preached several times, taught a nine week, in-depth Bible study on the Gospel of John, offered pastoral care and oversaw various adult ministries. The people of this church have been encouraging, affirming and helpful – an invaluable resource and support system for a young pastor. If it hadn’t been for the earthquake and the bedbugs, it would have been the most exhilarating season of my life. Imagine me dancing in silly circles singing with abandon. That is what it feels like to finally have a place where I have been not just permitted to use my gifts, but encouraged to freely use all the pastoral gifts that God gave me. Thank you God! Thank you Duane, elders and all the people of Hope!
Beloved — It’s hard to find people who listen and share in equal parts and extremely rare to find people with whom you can safely and openly share your pain as well as your dreams. A friend invited me to join a small women’s group focused on Henri Nouwen’s book, Life of the Beloved. Two months later I have six new friends who truly know me, perhaps not every aspect and event of my life, but these women can feel my pulse.
If I believe, know or feel anything to be true, it is that God is real and God loves me with an everlasting love. Sometimes I falsely think that I am God’s beloved because I am good, moral, kind, loving, etc. This thinking is unbiblical and it diminishes God’s love. God’s love is so great that he sacrificed his only son for the world, even for the people whose actions reduce the lives of their loved ones to rubble. Who am I to think that my life or my actions haven’t upset the balance of someone else’s life or caused them to question the foundation of our relationship? I am not fundamentally good, but I am fundamentally beloved. I proclaim part of my belovedness as I mourn and rejoice openly and honestly with others. Thanks to Sheri, Lily, Jessica, Alyssa, Blanca and Sharon for revealing their belovedness and for revealing mine.