On a whim…

Chaotic, esoteric, marginally coherent, stuff about life.

Under Used Talent: Absent Without Leave

with one comment

Sitting in church while the words of the gospel lesson wafted about something clobbered me on the head; the under used talent. Momentarily stunned into a moment of reflection I wondered, how often have I sat glumly listening as someone else preached? Even now, days after that Sunday, I find myself retracing events that led from my tenure as senior minister of a large church to the moment when, as a ubiquitous presence in the pew, I was struck by a word flitting about the sanctuary.

When I retired from ministry I was weary. I needed rest. My need for an extended respite was due, at least in part, to choices I made. After all, I took upon myself more than I should have. Now, in retrospect, this is self-evident. I rarely, if ever took vacation. I preached two different sermons every week, conducted two other worship services, and attended to the pastoral needs of a pretty good sized congregation. And there was more. At the time, though, it seemed I had no choice. The end began just after Thanksgiving a number of years ago.

My wife died on a Saturday. It was unexpected. She was gone from us only hours after I called the church officers to inform them I would be late returning from our annual holiday. The aftermath was jumbled. From her parents home I clumsily began making funeral arrangements while struggling with how I could comfort our children. I had not rehearsed what I would do “if or when something happened” and I felt eerily disconnected as though I were talking of and tending to the needs of someone else. I conducted her funeral on Tuesday. Time seemed to accelerate. On Friday of that same week I conducted another funeral. This was for a member who had been a friend to my family during my wife’s illness. Again time skidded and a few days later I preached another funeral. The deceased was the son-in-law of another good friend.

In any season so many funerals so close together would have taken a toll but, as Christmas approached, I felt especially bleak. My young children clustered around me and, I suppose, their proximity alone kept me afloat. As the year turned there were more stresses and little relief. I felt estranged from myself and, whether it came as a shock or a relief to my congregation I cannot say, I retired in July at the ripe old age of 41. I had no prospects for work. In the course of one weekend, I remarried (a scandalous act in the minds of many), retired, and moved what was left of my family from the coastal Georgia to New England; a distance of little over a thousand miles by road and by cultural measure a distance of galactic proportions.

I needed a rest but how much; how long; from what? Here I am years later, pondering the past when, more to the point, I should be perplexed by the future. I am transfixed by a word; I am confronted with an under used talent. The sermon had not even begun when my typical Sunday reverie was interrupted. The intrusion reminded me of something. The gospel can break in on its own. I have learned this from my own, too frequent, bouts of homiletical mediocrity. Many times, despite my ineptitude, the gospel launched an incursion into someone’s life. Its message is not always constrained by the skill of the messenger.

How I got ‘here’ has value but only in so far has it contributes meaningfully to what happens next. When I consider the future I feel I am squeezed between two mutually exclusive realities. On the one hand I ‘am’ a preacher. Perhaps one with some talent? On the other hand, I have no pulpit. In the first place, Jeremiah’s words reveal my own existential crisis, “But if I say, ‘I will not mention him or speak any more in his name,’ his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in” New International Version (©1984) In the second place I am filled with self loathing for the jealousy that I wish to deny but must in honesty confess.

Since then I have been greatly blessed to a degree and in ways I do not deserve. Every day I wake to a home filled with people I love and who, in turn love me. I am stunned by the good fortune that I have a job that permits me to care for them. I discover some measure of purpose as a leader of cub scouts. I do not discount that these are all good things but, well, I owe and am capable of much more. And it is a whispering realization that has broken into into an uproar today.

Oh the nuisance a word can cause. I wish to be the un-afflicted comfortable pew warmer but the the gospel won’t let me go. That this nuisance is not ‘good news’ for me does not mean that, in the end, my torment might not be the source of good news for others. So be it. I relinquish the cherished goal of letting my small talent lie fallow. Though the return that may be earned is diminished from small to trivial through years of neglect, I do here with commit myself to speak – or write- and in so doing to preach.

‘This is what the LORD says: See, I am setting before you the way of life and the way of death’.

Amen

Advertisements

Written by David Wilkerson

7 December 2011 at 9:52 pm

Posted in Creativity, epiphany, hope, Writing

Tagged with , , , ,

One Response

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. David

    I so enjoyed reading your writing on the underused talent! I pray for God to lead you into an understanding of where you are to serve so your words can be heard. For me, as a Deacon, I have found that God uses me to ‘preach’ his word through my job. I have always believed that I was called to the Priesthood – but life and primarily sexual orientation issues denied me that opportunity. So the call has been translated into the Diaconate with a current call to starting a business that honors the people who work for me, and my clients – some of which are very difficult.

    I will pray for you, my friend, that you can find your way back to a pulpit – and that in the meanwhile, that He will continue to bless your vocation as Father, Grandfather, Husband, and employee.

    Advent blessings
    Jan Grinnell

    Jan Grinnell

    9 December 2011 at 11:26 am


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: