October 2016 saw me start a three month sabbatical from my position in pastoral ministry – something I’ve done for around 15 years. I had two principal objectives for my sabbatical. Firstly it was for rest and recovery from some burnout, and secondly to begin to explore what’s next. The intention was that during my sabbatical I’d work out with bright clarity what was the next step, and in early 2017 launch into it. Friends have asked what I’ve learnt so far – a good question which I’ve tried to answer below – more for myself and than anyone else. A way of recording some of the musings of this liminal and numinous space.
Grief is the emotions and feelings that are attached to any form of loss or letting go in our lives. The last maybe as a result of their own choice, or forces beyond our control. I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that I have had to say goodbye to a community that I have given my life to for the past five years. Grief often comes as a result of attachment-where we have been attached to something or someone and hence the feelings of loss. Detachment can you to be healthy you are unhealthy, but in my case I am proud of the fact that I have attached myself to the community that I was part of, and therefore honour and understand the feeling is of loss.
I’ve experienced an exquisite mix of joy, sorrow, pain, laughter, tears and so much more, as I’ve reflected upon these past five years. Grief is hard, but it’s good, especially when you are proud of that/whom you’ve attached yourself to.
There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are the messengers of overwhelming grief, of deep contrition, and of unspeakable love. – Washington Irving
Giving and Receiving
The nature of my vocation in pastoral ministry for the past years has meant that I have spent a fair amount of time giving to others. Not only is that part of the nature of pastoral ministry, but I felt it’s also been a good extension of my character, and what comes most naturally to me. Whilst I don’t regret doing this at all, it has been important for me to look back and acknowledge how much I have given.
Interestingly the scales have tipped now, and I have found myself more on the receiving end then the giving end. It’s been an interesting transition, and one that I treated with a fair amount of suspicion, and wondering if I really deserved this. It seems strange to actually put that down on paper or on screen, but it’s something I’ve had to work through, and was made clear to me when recently somebody gave me a very generous gift and I found myself not knowing how to respond, and having to relearn in the way what it meant to merely receive. To receive, and not have feelings of guilt that I am not reciprocating but that it’s okay to just receive A hard lesson for me.
Lastly and perhaps most significantly, what I’m having to learn his grace – and here I’m referring to having grave with myself. As mentioned the second objective of my sabbatical was to somewhat plan my life ahead and what I’ll be doing in 2017, but that has been infinitely difficult because I’ve had to rest and because stripping away some of the identifiers (e.g. Jared the pastor…) that have been in place for years also takes time.
On a recent walk in Greyton nature reserve I had a conversation with myself out loud, and gave myself permission to take longer than three months ifnecessary to understand again who I am, and what is that I should be doing in this next season. I completely caught myself off guard with this, because I don’t think I’ve been good at showing myself grace and giving myself time.
And so, I’m okay with not knowing what the next steps are, and I’m excited about a journey of not necessarily being lost, but exploring. Having said that although I don’t have clarity about the road ahead, I’ve become aware of several key elements, and have written a little about them here if you would like to read more.
Maybe freedom really is nothing left to lose. You had it once in childhood, when it was okay to climb a tree, to paint a crazy picture and wipe out on your bike, to get hurt. The spirit of risk gradually takes its leave. It follows the wild cries of joy and pain down the wind, through the hedgerow, growing ever fainter. What was that sound? A dog barking far off? That was our life calling to us, the one that was vigorous and undefended and curious. – Peter Heller