During my installation service (or "my festival" as some members of Mission Bay Community Church call it), Rev. Abby King-Kaiser charged me to take time to love God and for God to love me. She reminded me (as all pastors need reminders) that our jobs, our roles in this community, are not to be confused with the time it takes for us to connect with God. To love God and to be loved by God.
There is a tendency for those of us in ministry to confuse our "pastor work" of shepherding God's people with our own "disciple work" of daily connecting with God, worshipping God, diving into a deeper relationship with God. We think they're one in the same, when really cultivating our own relationship with God is work set apart. I'm finding this to be true for me even after two and a half months of full time ministry. I catch myself not leaving enough time in the day to spend with God, just me - all of me. I'm too focused on other's need for God to see my own.
E Peterson said, "Contemporary pastors have become a quivering mass of availability to everyone but God." ...This feels about right. And backwards. And lonely.
With this reality in mind, I set off this weekend to spend time with God. Tim and I went backpacking on a trail in Los Padres National Park. We turned our cell phones off and turned our attention to the path, to the sounds and the views, to each other, and to God. It was only when I was fully away from the demands of the world around me that I could focus inward on my own thirsty demands for God.
I kept reminding myself I didn't need to feel guilty for getting away. Jesus spent time alone on the mountain to pray.
I didn't have to talk much. I just had to keep walking and I felt heard, understood, comforted. A friend of mine, Kate Buckley, mentioned in her sermon this week what Mother Theresa has said about prayer and it felt just right. In an interview, Mother Theresa was asked what she says when she prays to God. She replied, "I don't talk, I simply listen." The reporter, thinking he understood her asked, "And what does God say to you?" Mother Theresa replied, "God doesn't talk either, God simply listens, too."