Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Study Break 2011:6

Last night I couldn't sleep. I got up and read, and wrote, and then crawled back into bed and began to pray.

And just a few moments later, I so clearly, tangibly felt calmed. It's hard to explain; as close as I can get is to tell you that I felt like an infant in the arms of a mother. I felt that closeness, and a sense of relaxation and security that was unlike anything I've experienced in such a moment. My muscles unwound, and I slept.

Then today, finally, I gave in to the point of this get-away and settled. My head cleared, the streaming million-miles-a-minute pace of my thoughts slowed and I was centered.

That was a good thing. I was about ready to pack up and go home and call this adventure a bust.

I always try to have a few tangible take-aways from a study break, and thus far I have three things on my list. They have grown out of the introspection and self-examination of the first few days, which has to be dealt with before I can approach the more pragmatic stuff. More on that list later; but first, I'll share this, with the thought that it may impact you as much as it did me. I've heard John Ortberg teach on shadow mission and remember it well. But this quote today, from a post by Pete Wilson at Without Wax couldn't have come at a better time. At the heart of these three paragraphs is the foundational challenge of what I struggled with earlier this week, especially when he speaks of inadequacies, sense of lack and the odd conflict when the private me has space to stretch and breathe. Ortberg (and Wilson) helped me name the rollercoaster ride of emotions this week.

As a preface, here's this tidbit: Preparing to leave Powhatan Sunday evening, I went to Starbucks and then to Food Lion. At both places, I had spontaneous encounters with folks who knew me from church. In both cases, we had great - and important - conversations. I met someone's new fiance, got the back story from another who was entranced by our use of a marching snare on Easter Sunday. I wouldn't trade those encounters for anything. But they both required investment - of emotion and time (when I got home, my family wondered what it in the world took so long; but they've heard the answer too many times. "I ran into somebody at Food Lion...."). Because of the size of the church I serve and the role I play there, it's become practically impossible for me to "just" go to the store. There is always the awareness that Ortberg writes of here; this is not a bad thing, but it is there, and it feels always like a responsibility. Anywhere I go, someone might need a moment - a conversation, a kind word, a listening ear. It comes with the territory.

And that is why I drove 4 1/2 hours to hole up alone and work this week.

Here's the Ortberg quote. Read Pete's entire post here. And tell me I'm not the only one who feels this way.

There’s the public me. I prepare talks, and lead meetings, and say words that I want others to hear. This public me isn’t deliberately false. But I am always aware, when I am in the presence of other people, of how they will hear what I say. This awareness is a kind of filter that I cannot put away. This public me will always be gauging other peoples’ responses and adjusting accordingly. I often do not like this dynamic. But I cannot flip it off as if it were a switch.

There is the private me. This is the me who watches and listens and feels. I sometimes avoid this me, especially in seasons of great busyness. When I slow down, and bring the private me before God, I often become aware of my inadequacies or sense of lack. I sometimes can slow down to a level of deep peace, or of awareness of my longing for God. This private me often seems surprisingly conflicted—moved some times by genuine desires to serve and grow, and other times by reflexive habits of greed or resentment.

There is the real me. This is true person who inhabits my life; the mixture of what is admirable and what is squalid and what is small. This me must exist, and must be fully known if justice is to prevail.

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