Oops! Wrong Turn.
If I didn’t know any better I would think that this was a sign of being a complete flake. But I have been working with the process of institutional pilgrimage long enough to know that sometimes the best way forward is to the take the risk of making a few wrong turns.
One of those wrong turns happened this last week.
If you have been following my blog you know that my writing voice has shifted in recent months. I began sharing last January that the image of holy breadcrumbs wasn’t feeling quite right for our time. It worked well while I knew that a future vision was going to have to be teased out rather than as the result of some long-range strategic planning process. But as I turned the visioning work over to a strategic planning team my work in teasing out the vision ceased. My individual voice now matters less than the voice of the body of the presbytery.
Ever since then I have been looking for my unique voice again. I know that I will find my voice once the presbytery makes definite commitments, but between this shift in vision and the shifting emotional realities of the pandemic, I have been feeling a bit ungrounded.
A few weeks ago, my soul was finally ready to do the work of becoming grounded again and finding my center. After much thought I felt I knew the answer. Having been a preacher for nearly three decades I felt like it was time to return to the weekly rhythm of scripture.
I shared that I had some hesitancy in doing this in that I knew a significant portion of my readership were not church-going folks. A return to scripture would likely not resonate with them, I felt. Nonetheless, I moved forward. I needed something to get my feet back on the ground again after a year of feeling tossed about by the circumstances of this crazy time.
Last week I started my new cycle as I wrestled with Jesus’ question, “Who do you say that I am?” It was a okay piece of work, but didn’t resonate deeply with a broad audience. I had only barely started to wrestle with this week’s scripture where Jesus tells the disciples, “Let the children come to me,” that I knew I had taken a wrong turn.
Returning to scripture was not the answer. Not that scripture is bad. It just wasn’t the answer to this particular dilemma. I wasn’t sure what the answer was, but I knew this wasn’t it. Because my readership holds both church-going folks and those who think of themselves as more “spiritual than religious” I found myself twisting and contorting the texts trying to find a message that would be equally life-giving to my whole readership.
But I was working too hard at it. And for me, that is not a good sign. My writing has always come effortlessly and fluidly. I only need to get in touch with my own heart and the words just start flowing. People sometimes marvel that I can write something like this every week given the scope of my job. But seriously, writing for me is not all that different than cooking up a good meal. Once I have an image of what I want everything falls into place nicely.
As I pondered how I had I lost the easy effortless of my writing I discovered my answer—my role is not to speak from a specific narrative, but to speak to our common condition.
I shared my experience with my executive coach and she reminded me, “Brian, your real gift is your ability to use your own experience to connect with what is universal in all of us.” She was right. Over the years, I have learned to trust that the truth of my own experience will lead me to connect with the truth of our common experience.
So, here I go again—assuming that even in this blog about having taken a wrong turn that there is something in here for you.
We are all clawing our way through this pandemic time, doing the best that we can, never sure we are getting it right, and making decisions where we aren’t sure if we are going forward or falling back. In recent months, I began to feel paralyzed. Without a definite future on which to count, my feet felt heavy. Decisions were hard to make and all decisions had an uncertainty to them. “Shall I go out and shop for groceries and connect with real human beings or shall I stay isolated at home and protect myself from an invisible virus?” In this environment, I shifted only to writing when I had something to say—which definitely wasn’t every week.
But I got pulled back in. I got tired of waiting for inspiration to come to me. I missed the feeling of knowing that people were counting on me to have a weekly pastoral/prophetic message on behalf of the presbytery. So I stepped back in to the ring. I found my back in.
Immediately I realized I had made a wrong turn. Returning to scripture was not right. My voice is to speak to our common condition not from a pre-determined narrative.
So what is my message to you, my dear readers, on this day?
Sometimes we just have to choose a direction. It might be a wrong turn, but it is still better than sitting on our butts paralyzed.
Move forward and adjust as necessary.
By Rev. Brian Heron, Presbyter for Vision and Mission, Presbytery of the Cascades