Oops! Wrong turn

Oops! Wrong Turn.

OOOPS! / Warning sign concept (Click for more)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.

BibleA 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.

twistingReturning 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.

metaphorWe 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.

oung man lost on the roadImmediately 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

13 thoughts on “Oops! Wrong turn

  1. Are you feeling good about the Presbytery’s proposed mission and vision statements? What else do we need to suss out?


    1. Hi Sharon,
      We are in the process of getting feedback for the purposes of editing before they go to the presbytery for adoption. I can support the presbytery through this process, but I have to be careful about carrying out a vision that has not yet been adopted.


  2. Why does there have to be an either or? Maybe life experience is providing inspiration, maybe a piece of scripture is calling, maybe it is both. Inspired writing is a gift of Spirit. Your writing has created deeper thinking and pause, keep following the Spirit, as you said you know when you are in the flow!



    1. Hi Deanna,
      For some reason this “either/or” comment keeps showing up in my life. Obviously others are seeing something I am not!
      I do know that for now I was looking for an organizing principle for my writing in this next stage. For over three years I had a vision I was writing my way toward, but now that I have turned the working of that vision over to the presbytery it has left me drifting a little. I was looking for something that lead me to a weekly discipline of writing again, but it was clear that forcing it to be on the lectionary every week was not right for me or for this time.
      Thanks for holding a mirror up to me@



  3. Maybe your work with visioning isn’t done. Perhaps your mission could be interpreting “collaboration” to the presbytery’s individual churches. To some it will seem like new wine in old wineskins. Turning to scripture may be helpful in doing this — just a thought.


    1. Hi Brad, We are working on a theme of collaboration, but it hasn’t been adopted yet. So I am trying to listen for what needs to be said in this time before the presbytery formally adopts a vision and then I will be off and running again!


  4. Brian, A big Hooooo-Rah for a man who knows when he’s gone down the wrong road, and has the guts to reverse course. Write when you have something to say that will engage your readers, and invite them to think, and don’t promise something every week. Leave the scripture quoting to those who need money urgently sent to them.
    Herman Welch


    1. I will listen for the Spirit wherever it comes from. But it was clear forcing my writing to come from the lectionary texts every week wasn’t the right move for me or the presbytery. Brian


  5. Loved the honesty and vulnerability in this post. And ditto to what Carole Beers said in her comment. Where does that judgment of right/wrong come from? We were just talking about that in my No Way Cafe contemplation group. Interesting question to explore. Isn’t that another form of the narrative in our minds? I so appreciate your willingness to share so openly the reflections of your spirit. Thank you.


    1. “Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and right doing, there is a field, I will meet you there.” Seems that Rumi is talking to us. Thanks.


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