Ten years, ten months, ten days . . . what would you do if that's what was left to you?
It's an old question, I know. I'm feeling the urgency of it these days.
Looking ahead: I'll be sixty in a few weeks. I figure that gives me ten years of energy at the level to which I've become accustomed. Not anything approaching the energy I possessed five years ago, but still. Enough. Ten years in which to pastor a church and/or accomplish some other things which matter to me. Ten years before I will perhaps want to make completely different choices about how to spend my days than I do now.
(And yes, I'm presuming health, which is nothing more than a fragile hope. I have a routine colonoscopy scheduled in a couple of weeks. Once one of those routine tests alters your life for year or more, as a mammogram did for me, you no longer view them with quite the equanimity you once did. But let's pretend.)
Looking back, the last two months have been fuller than I would have liked (and probably account for how sick I've been the last few days). The usual church stuff plus some difficult conflicts. Three funerals, a new member, two people having and still facing major surgeries. (And while I've never had a pastor come to visit me in the hospital, excepting after the birth of my boys nearly twenty-nine years ago, when my people go, I usually do as well.) Extensive preparations for two major events, one of which I was unable to attend, due to one of the aforesaid funerals. Three days of advocacy in Washington. And some unbloggable stuff, some kind of difficult and some filled with promise -- or not.
I really am not at all sure how to approach these next ten years. I feel very . . . scattered. It's in the nature of parish ministry that one does many things, different things, sequentially and also often simultaneously. I'm not sure that I want to live that way. I look at some of the intensity with which others in my boat approach writing, or suicide prevention work, or bereavement work, and I think: Yes, I should be a more single-minded and focused person.
Then I live with that sort of focus for a bit, and I miss the rest. I loved being in Washington. I loved the return to my driven lawyer self. I loved the sense of community. I loved being with 200 people who could talk about gruesome details of death by suicide without flinching. (I guess that sounds weird. But so often I have to sensor my reality . . . ). And yet, while I was there, I was planning worship for the next two Sundays in my head, I was texting with a parishioner with respect to one of those surgeries, I was the grateful recipient of thanks for some liturgy I had prepared, and I was starting to plan a rather unusual retreat for myself for next winter -- a retreat I might actually need to make right now. I seem to migrate toward the varied in spite of myself.
There is an actual thought forming itself as I write. Hard to believe, I know.