After writing that last post, I felt a weight lift. I felt as though I could at last step away from some of the damaged and damaging relationships of the last months. There are still little tremors now and again which throw me off balance temporarily, but for the most part, I no longer live in fear of the (real or perceived) seismic effects of certain people’s controlling behaviour. I am considerably happier, and without the weight of constant anxiety, I am able to more quickly gain my footing when the ground shifts a bit.
There’s plenty to be getting on with just now anyway. My final Sunday at Old Saint Paul’s is less than two months away, and we’ll be moving out of the flat in Edinburgh back down to Stow for a couple of months before heading out to Tiberias in November. Two moves in two months doesn’t sound like a lot of fun, so we’re trying to make it as simple as possible.
That means getting rid of a lot of the stuff we’ve accumulated over the years. At first it was hard. I held up every item of clothing, every book, every picture and could imagine scenarios in which I might find myself needing or wanting or missing it. But once I started throwing things into the pile to give away, it got easier. More weight continued to lift. I dug deep to ask myself what I really need to exercise the kind of ministry I’m being called to, what I want to remind me what is truly important in life.
It’s been an interesting exercise, and it’s rather revealing what I’m willing to give up and what I want to keep.
Books on liturgy, art, worship, scared space are all staying. My entire poetry library is essential. And of course I’ll keep some of the theology and most of my commentaries.
But as I face decisions that once would almost have made me weep with frustration, I find it less agonising that I expected.
Is there much of a choice between books on the developments in Christology or the box of postcards of religious paintings I’ve collected from museums? No. I’d far rather have the paintings.
Or what about systematic theology books vs coloured pens? Pens. Every time.
Church history tomes or the beautiful paper I’ve picked up on my travels? Yeah. No brainer. Definitely the paper.
As I pile more books into the guest bedroom to give away, I let go of expectations I have of myself to know all the answers, to be narrow and literal in my thinking, to be scholarly in my writing. I let go of unhelpful and unhealthy impressions of what a priest should be, should know, should read. With each book taken off the shelf, more weight lifts.
In these past couple of weeks, I’ve rediscovered what it means to lean into the God of creativity and joy and lightness and life, to trust in the God who has called me, and to embrace the God without whose grace I would not be a priest and without whose Wisdom I would be a hollow shell.
I’ve found God in so many places recently: in long-neglected relationships, in conversations with new friends, in pastoral moments and walks with Judy and the warmth of the sun and music that reminds me of home. And in these encounters, I remember who I am and whose I am and feel so grateful for this life that my heart could burst with contentment.
It’s a refreshing change after stultifying meetings, and trying to exercise ministry in what often felt like a prison cell, and being told over and over to — for the sake of the image of the institution — JUST BE QUIET each time I pointed out the unnecessary barriers.
And I realised I have a choice. I have a choice to return to places where there is blessing in brokenness and where forgiveness dances over foolishness. I have a choice to go where there is lightness and life and creativity and joy.
And so I have chosen.
I have wandered through the Secret Herb Garden with a fellow clergywoman, dreaming of flourishing gardens, comfy reading spaces subtly perfumed with mint and sage and lavender, and a yurt transformed into a worship space.
I have spent an afternoon surrounded by colourful paper and pritt sticks and ribbons learning how to make folding books to use as journals, or decorations, or sermon illustrations.
I have had wonderful pastoral visits, looking at pictures, listening to stories, laughing at the relief of having survived past mistakes, crying at the losses that linger.
I have twisted myself in theological knots trying to explain the Easter story to a curious toddler.
I have given in to a long-held dream of learning to play the banjo and now have sore fingers from learning chords and a sore head from the intense concentration it requires.
I have shared hurts and hopes with wise women who have hurt more deeply and hoped more passionately than I have. And whose friendship gives me strength.
And I decided, after a great deal of thought, to pay a visit to Studio XIII (Mom, you may not want to click that link) to give myself a permanent reminder that in discipleship, death and resurrection are inseparable, that Wisdom is a tree of life to all who embrace her, and that above all, the one who calls is faithful.