Being in nature. Being with family. Being by myself. For me, these were ways that allowed a kind of reformation and renewal process to take place. All ways God was breaking IN to my own thoughts, feelings, questions, uncertainty, and wonderings, and breaking THROUGH with moments of insight, affirmation, healing, wholeness and spiritual growth.
One such moment was when I called my mom for her birthday. After several minutes of sharing and as we were wrapping up the conversation, she asked, “What one word would you use to describe your time away?” Before I could really think, I heard myself respond with the word: FREEING!
At first I was surprised that that was the word. But the more I thought about it, the more it made sense. My time away gave me the space I needed to look at, evaluate, pray over, ponder, and let go of some things that were on my heart and mind. It gave me time and space to reflect on my fourteen years at Grace UMC and recognize that a lot has happened in my personal life over the past five years. It was freeing to honor, sort through, recognize, remember and release some of those thoughts and feelings.
It was good to be free from a demanding schedule. A full calendar. Meeting after meeting. It was freeing to step away and gain some perspective on who I am, how I lead, and what my roles are while I walk this earth.
It also gave me the opportunity to reflect on what it means to be free from something in order to be free for something else. It gave me space to ask questions like: what do you need to be free from to be freed for? What do you need to be freed from in order to lead and serve as you are called? To see the next right step? To have room in your life for what you value most? To be the mom, daughter, pastor, friend, neighbor, and colleague that I am meant to be?
These are questions I think all of us can ask and reflect on as a part of the reforming and renewing process. It is when we are open to such questions that we are more aware of when, where and how God is breaking in and breaking through.
There is something else about playdough that translates to our reformation and renewing process. Remember how little pieces would fall awake, stick to the table, or get pushed aside? What did you do with them? Yes, you took the larger lump and dabbed it around the table, picking up the smaller pieces and making them one again with the whole. In some ways I felt like my renewal leave was a time to pick up those pieces of self that fell away or got lost along the way - some of the creative expressions that are a part of me.
I wrote / journaled a lot.
I played my guitar again.
I read poetry.
I listened to music.
I drew and colored.
I took walks for the sole purpose of just walking…not exercising, de-stressing, or squeezing it in between things to do, but rather, just walking.
In the midst of it all…
God broke in and got my attention. God, traveled 6,300 miles across the country with me, sat on the beach, walked the trails, and opened the creative spaces. The breakthrough came as a soul level reminder of how much I love what I do, where I serve, and the people I walk alongside - and that I am actually pretty good at it most of the time.
In the process of it all..
God broke in. Somewhere between driving along Hwy 1 on the California Coast and scuba diving in the blue green waters of the Great Barrier Reef, the breakthrough came as I reflected, prayed, and processed some really difficult and sad things in my life; around my brother’s death, my divorce, family dynamics, again parents, how life doesn’t always turn out how you think, how my life is changing once again with my youngest son graduating highschool this year, and just how incredibly beautiful and fragile life is and that being whole involves both pain and joy.
In the space of it all…
God broke in…with time. Time to work on house projects, landscaping, and cleaning out the garage. Time to do just ordinary house stuff rather than having to wait until my day off to do it all. Time to just be. Be busy. Be quiet. Be productive. Be creative. Be loud. Or be nothing. The breakthrough came as a realization of how tired I really was. How my own heart needed space to rest and heal. My soul, as much as it loves what I do, needed space to NOT carry the weight, pain, and sorrow related to my role as pastor.
All this to say thank you church, for a time of renewal. All this to offer insight into what it meant for me. All this to invite you to ask yourself the question: How does God break in and/or break through in my life? In the life of the church? In my family or work life? At school? In my relationships?
May we all be open to what it means to be formed again.
May we all live into the process of being made new.
May we all have the courage to look back and look again at what God is up to.
I wonder where God will show up next? Let’s find out together.
I love you church. Amen.
Rev. Dr. Jenothy Irvine