Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Listening to Leaves...




Community…

So, the mountains are beautiful. Sitting alone in the early evening you can hear the leaves just starting to rustle and you’ll see one here and there changing from deep green to orange and yellow. You can tell by the cool nights that autumn is coming. The busyness here at the LJ had calmed down to almost a stop and we are preparing for winter events and making plans for next summer. It occurs to me as my best friend has gone back to central North Carolina and my staff has all returned to college how alone I am. My son, Jordan, and I have been looking for several months to find a community to worship and serve in, but have not been successful. In the words of my previous blog, “no cheeseburgers.” So we are continuing to look.

I’m learning a lot from my time alone though. I’m learning to listen to God in the rustle of those leaves. I am learning to worship as a discipline, not because I feel welcomed or embraced by the community. After more than a dozen years leading a congregation I am learning what it is like to sit in a congregation. This experience will make me a better pastor and leader if and when I ever return to leading a local church.

I am also learning that community is not necessarily about location as it is about relationship. Many of my friends, most of my best friends actually, live hours away. We are unable to communicate as often as we used to and certainly can’t see each other, but the knowledge that others are with you on the journey and holding you in their prayers and in their hearts is comforting even amidst the loneliness.

This week I struggled with being alone. Friday night I spoke with Lydia briefly on the phone and being four hours away from her broke my heart. As I was leaving work, late as usual, somebody asked me how I was doing and tears welled up in my eyes. I had been separated for a year on that day and somehow it was particularly acute all weekend. Being alone is hard.

When you serve a church there is always somebody to call upon, to visit, to call. You never really have to be alone, which is great for an extrovert like me. In this work that is not the case. There is not the instant source of community. A friend of mine called me excited about her newest place of ministry. To be honest I was jealous of how excited she was. She spoke of how wonderful the congregation was and how they embraced her. How great it was to work with a peer in ministry and of the great things they would be able to do together. That conversation, however brief, made me miss the local church work. I can’t believe that, the work that gave me most of the grey hair upon my head. The work that tore me up some days and caused me to cry out to God, and here I was missing it. I hung up the phone and felt a genuine sense of longing for a community. One like she described.

My call for now is to equip and to teach. This is my place. The lessons I’m learning will serve me well, as do most lessons that are hard learned. So, this evening, I’ll watch the wind whisper God’s presence through the changing leaves and see what God has to say to me…alone. I remain:

Lost in Grace,

Marty
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