Why Are You Smiling?
First there was the conversation with a colleague who was about to retire from 40 years in music ministry.
“What’s your secret?” I asked.
I was curious because I couldn’t believe how joyful he seemed. Not just happy, but deeply joyful, without a trace of cynicism in his tone or exhaustion on his face. He was fit, calm, and his smile originated with the light in his eyes and then moved southward.
“I’ve always made time for my family and I’ve always taken my vacations,” he said.
I thought about his answer many times in the following months as I struggled to manage work, family life, time off, the checkbook, and my aforementioned adrenalin addiction.
What would it mean for me to do my job, take time for my family and use every one of my vacation days this year? It seemed utterly impossible. But what was the price if I didn’t?
Next came the note in the mail from another colleague Laura, recommending a book about Sabbath-keeping that had made a huge difference in her life and ministry.
Finally, there was the conversation with my clergy colleague Sylvia about Wayne Muller’s book Sabbath: Restoring the Sacred Rhythm of Rest which had saved her from certain burn out.
That’s when I cried, “Uncle! You’ve got my attention, God! What do you want to teach me about Sabbath?”
And so began a new season in my life: a season of giving up and letting go, of grieving and resting, of searching and learning, of transformation and renewal.
That season, I
- took every one of my vacation days
- asked for a week of leave in addition which, after 10 years in the same job was offered with a blessing
- read Wayne Muller’s book and experimented with different Sabbath practices
- hired Wayne to be my coach for a period of time
- took a five-day retreat and worked with a spiritual director who helped me listen deeply to the unhealed wounds from being in ministry in Blacksburg during the time of the Virginia Tech mass murder
· asked a group of people invested in music ministry at my church to help me look back to see what had/had not been working well, and look forward to help me imagine God’s preferred future for my ministry at BUMC, which I hoped would last a lot longer.
By the grace of God, it has.
So, my dear colleagues, I wonder…
Has God been trying to get your attention?
What qualities do you hope others see in you when you retire?
How does your life and your practice of ministry support the best version of yourself?
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