I am heading into the last week of this part of my sabbatical, people are asking me if I have enjoyed it, and I have to be honest to say no not really, I have benefitted from it, learned from it, enjoyed bits of it, but it hasn’t been fun, it has been work, deep reflective, different work.
I went to worship today with the people of Broomhill Methodist Church, it felt right, it was their last service as a worshipping congregation, they took the decision to cease to meet earlier this year, and have given the building into Circuit Trusteeship, it was a bold and brave decision, one not taken lightly, but one taken thoughtfully and creatively. It was a privilege to be with them.
They gave me pause for thought, the decision to let go was taken years ago when the church took ownership of their then new building, they have held it lightly, and that enabled them to do what they have done, hard and painful though it was.
Throughout my sabbatical I have been reflecting on our need to let go, on my need to let go, let go of my expectations of myself, my perfectionism and self condemnation, I need to let go, to let go of my inner critic who haunts me with self-doubt and fears.
I have not enjoyed my sabbatical, not in the way that people are hoping for, but I have received from it, I have received unexpected affirmations and encouragements from people who have walked with me through some of the difficult parts of life. Who still walk with me.
I reflect that so often we want to name/ describe our Christian journeys as neat and tidy, as journeys that make sense, as “good news stories” but in a brittle and superficial way, because if we told our whole tale and shared our doubts and fears we might not be the people others expect us to be, and yet we, as people of the book are people of a book filled with conundrums, light and shadow, laments, fears and more.
So why is it so difficult for us to speak out our truths, our insecurities, our realities, maybe we are uncomfortable with them, feeling that we must present a respectable front to the world, worried about being judged, criticised, unacceptable. As I sat with the people at Broomhill today I was hit by the fact that I have a responsibility to them, and to the community as the building is received by the Circuit where I am a Superintendent. I felt a wave of insecurity, of self-doubt and dare I say, of fear.
What if I fail them, what if we fail them, what if the things they and I hope for do not come to pass…?
It is so easy for us to tie ourselves in knots, and yet we claim to follow one who did not shrink from pain and hardship, who embraced the broken, who included the excluded, and the God who calls us fearfully and wonderfully made, and knows us inside and out, faults, flaws, quirks and brokenness and asks us to entrust ourselves to love, a love that overlooks all of that and works in and through is for our transformation, the God who calls us to work with and walk with her letting go of our expectations and allowing the Spirit to blow through our lives bringing life in unexpected ways.
I am not very good at letting go, and very good at beating myself up. As the end of this section of my sabbatical approaches I have to own that I have doubts and fears as I face the coming year, but know that I will be starting it with the words of the Methodist Covenant Prayer, placing myself into the hands of God; saying “I am no longer my own but yours”… letting go…
The chalk pastels are part of my sabbatical project, when I tell myself I have done nothing I must remind myself that I have created 60 of them!