The only really not-so-good thing that happened on my vacation at the end of August was that I left the book I was reading, Eugene Peterson's The Pastor, on the plane when we landed in Winnipeg. I put in a claim with Air Canada as soon as I discovered my error, but when there was no word from them after a week, I realised that I might never see that particular book again. So I hoped that whoever found the volume might enjoy it, and I ordered it again. On Thursday, it appeared at my door.
Yesterday I finished the chapter I had just begun to read when I misplaced the book - chapter 35. If I was the legislating kind, I would insist that all pastors read this chapter. However, what Eugene says here about his own experience goes far beyond the pastor vocation. I think it speaks to all of us who find ourselves running non-stop in this demanding, busy, over-scheduled lifestyle, always feeling like we are a bit behind while never quite getting where we want to go.
Below is an adapted version of Eugene's mini-manifesto. Finding himself overworked and frustrated as a pastor, he offered his resignation. Instead of accepting his decision, the elders (leadership team) asked him what he wanted to do differently. This is how he responded. I have taken out his word, "pastor," so that you can insert your own descriptor/vocation.
I want to be a ______ who prays. I want to be reflective and responsive and relaxed in the presence of God so that I can be reflective and responsive and relaxed in your presence. I can't do that on the run. It takes a lot of time....
I want to be a ______ who reads and studies. This culture in which we live squeezes all the God sense out of us. I want to be observant and informed enough to help [you] understand what we are up against, the temptations of the devil to get us thinking we can all be our own gods. This is subtle stuff. It demands some detachment and perspective. I can't do this just by trying harder.
I want to be a ______ who has the time to be with you in leisurely, unhurried conversations so that I can understand and be a companion with you as you grow in Christ - your doubts and your difficulties, your desires and your delights. I can't do that when I am running scared.
I want to be a ______ who leads you in worship, a ______ who brings you before God in receptive obedience, a ______ who [makes] scripture accessible and present and alive, a ______ who is able to give you a language and imagination that restores in you a sense of dignity as a Christian in your homes and workplaces....
I want to have the time to read a story to [my daughter].
I want to be an unbusy ______. (p. 278).
In order to pursue these desires, Eugene chose to give up the "running" of the church. Instead of a resignation, he opted for a re-organization. He entrusted administrative tasks to people who were perhaps less qualified than he was, but who were willing to learn. He had to learn to trust them, and he also had to learn to live with the decisions they made, even when they were not the same ones he would have made. But he realised that he couldn't have it both ways. He says: "If they let me be the pastor I wanted to be, I would have to let them be the elders they wanted to be." (p. 280).
Yes, it is a trade off. We can't have it all and be unbusy. We have to decide what we really want and let the rest of it go. Yes, I want to be an unbusy student, an unbusy wife and friend, an unbusy teacher and writer. I want to be reflective and responsive, not running from one task to the next, hoping to strike a few things off my to-do list before more gets piled onto it. I want to understand and discern and observe so that I can be part of informing and tranforming myself and others. I want to have leisurely, unhurried conversations that honour and respect the incredible worth of the people I am talking to. What do I need to let go of, to give away, in order to be an unbusy Matte?
Quotes are taken from Eugene Peterson, The Pastor: A Memoir. New York: HarperCollins, 2011.
The photo: Eugene's book amidst some of the reading I have to digest this term.