The Sunday before the Fourth of July, I preached sitting on a stool. It was a bell-ringer stool that I borrowed from the bell choir because it was handy. There are a surprising number of handy things behind those moveable walls at the front of the sanctuary. I sat on a stool to preach because I decided to come back to work a little earlier than might have been suggested, and my compromise was to sit on a stool rather than roam around while I spoke. I only did two services that Sunday, also a compromise. In the spirit of truth and confession, after the 9:15 service was over I wondered what I was thinking. I was tired, cranky, sore, and couldn’t exactly remember what I’d said or what I was going to say at the next service. I knew I was going to be gone the following weekend when Pastor Kyle was preaching, so I convinced myself that for Grace to get what they pay for with me, I needed to preach at least two services after being gone for a month.
The church, of course, was counting, right? *snort* Because that’s all you really have to do is count the Sundays that your preacher is gone after surgery. I know better than that. But while I know better than that, because I know that at Grace there really is grace, sometimes it’s difficult for me to receive – far more difficult than it is for me to give. And it’s difficult for me to take time away – far more difficult than it is for me to work. I’m guessing I’m not the only one. I’m guessing that we are, in general, a people who find it much easier to give than to receive, much easier to “do” than to “be”, much more apt to define ourselves by our production than by our being named beloved children by a loving God.
I was raised to work hard, and frankly I love that. I love feeling passionate about what I do and what it requires of me. I love multi-tasking and figuring things out and writing and reading and creating and relating and learning and teaching and going and doing – it’s so much of my essential make-up that sometimes I lose sight of the value of resting and healing. Okay, maybe more than sometimes. Please hear me, that is no one’s fault but my own. We are encouraged as clergy, and most particularly at Grace, to have a work-life balance, and I know the world is healthier when we commit ourselves to being as healthy as we can be. But when there’s adrenaline pumping and things that need to get done and deadlines and requests and projects that are all worthwhile and good, saying no, or maybe even just not right now, is part of the vocabulary that in all my verbosity I’ve not found easy to say.
So I preached sitting on a stool and between services I came to my office, shut the door, sat down in a reading chair I have in my office, pulled another chair over and put my feet up and closed my eyes. I probably was praying, or meditating, or visualizing my sermon and how to make it better, or… I could have dozed off for a bit maybe. Let’s just say it may be a God thing that cell phones come with alarm clocks. When the cell phone sounded, I jumped up, ready to go for 10:45, grabbed my Bible, and came in to the Celebration Center a little before Keith started the prelude. Everything was good. I preached sitting on a stool again at 10:45 and the service ended, I think on time! I know, right?
I came down to my office and went into my habitual behavior. I unclipped the microphone from my ear and neck and put it in the charger, then I walked back over to the closet to hang up my robe. I got to the closet, opened the door, and thought, something isn’t right, there’s no empty hanger. I looked down, and apparently I’d forgotten to robe and hadn’t even realized it! Not even once, not even at the beginning, middle, or end. Not even going up the stairs when I always grab it and raise it from the floor a couple of inches so I won’t trip – like that never happened before – not even sitting down up front before the service when I check the mic pack in my pocket 3 million times to make sure it’s off in case I sneeze, cough, or say something non-Jesusy before the service starts.
Probably not robing for 10:45 is not earth-shattering. I mean, I was wearing clean clothes and all, but not remembering to robe is kind of a big deal for me. I always remember to robe for 10:45, except I didn’t.
I sat down at my desk and wondered who I’d been trying to convince that day that I was ready to be back, that nothing was different, that recovery time is important but probably not for me. I don’t think Jesus needed to be convinced, I don’t think the people at Grace needed to be convinced, so um, I guess that leaves me. I don’t really know what the sermon was like that day, but that’s really not the point, is it? The message I gave beyond my words, by deciding I needed to be back before I was healthy, was not a healthy witness for this community of faith I care about so very much.
My hope is for each of us to live into the life filled with goodness that I authentically believe God wants for all of us. That includes work and play and rest and healing and yes, struggle and heartache and pain and sorrow, and yes, joy and celebration and love and laughter and everything between and beyond all those words. For us to experience the complexities of this life and remain as healthy as we can, we must love ourselves enough to care for the self as much as we care for (and so that we can care for) each other.
I’m back full-time and am healthy enough to be, according to professionals as well as me. I’m back full-time but not full-speed, and while that is quite frustrating, it is a truth I’m trying to live into in a more healthy way than I have in my years leading up to this place. So someday I may sit on a stool again to preach, and maybe not even because I’m not quite recovered from surgery, maybe simply because it feels okay in that particular worship service to sit a while and share our love of Jesus. My guess is you may think to yourself, hmmm, that’s interesting, but my guess is also that it won’t stop you from listening for the words God has for you that morning. And maybe it will help me to understand that needing rest is not a sign of weakness, but maybe choosing rest is a sign of strength.