7 (W)e have this treasure (the Gospel) in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us. 8 We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies. 2 Corinthians 4:7-10 (NRSV)
For many years now, we have had a friend who, when you greet him with, “Hi, how are you?” his response is always “Unbelievable.” Because he smiles when he says this, you might assume that means that he is having a great day. However, if you ask him to tell you about it, he might be having a very bad day and will share that information… only if you ask.
When I did ask him why that is his standard response, he said because “unbelievable” really means different things, so it is up to the person to determine how much they really want to know. Many times, we assume things based on our inner world, not the world of our friends. Some of the synonyms for ‘unbelievable’ are: astonishing, implausible, improbable, incredible, preposterous, too much, unimaginable. So, someone having an unbelievable day may be having an incredible day that could be good or bad. As a salesman, he feels this is an honest answer without having to say much more, unless the person cares to ask for more.
I am just at the end of my three month Spiritual Formation and Renewal Leave and I can honestly say it has been unbelievable! I say this because it has been a time of wonderful experiences in contradictions. It has been so calm and restful. It has been so hard to disconnect I’ve thought my head would explode. It has had several high and holy moments. It has had some very boring and frustrating moments. It has allowed me to explore things in my own character and that has both pro’s and con’s, don’t you know?! So this time away/but very much here time, has offered me many instances of a contemplative mindset. This has been one of my goals.
A contemplative is a person who strives to live in the present moment, with all of its difficulties and joys, and manages to hold a balance of those tensions, because the good and the bad in life are a reality. And they are both impeccable teachers. You have heard me say this before. I do say I strive to live like that because it means I can choose how to act in each experience, rather than letting each experience cause me to react. Being a reactionary is easier, but it causes a lot of unnecessary drama. I can do that enough when I am trying to be thoughtful, I don’t need more drama from being impulsive.
I have had an opportunity to work with several professionals in the counseling arts and have gained insights into some of my fears and defense mechanisms of my personality. Wouldn’t you know that many of them come from our childhood. Many of them do not work well in our adulthood; and, thanks be to God’s wisdom of growth and repentance, we can change how we do things (thanks especially to neuroplasticity) which is what makes it a physical change that works in our minds and helps our emotions (body, mind and spirit). [If you missed my sermon months ago on neuroplasticity, you might want to check it out.]
Needless to say, this has been an unbelievable time of renewal. It is a gift beyond compare that you have given to me. Thank you, Christ United Methodist Church for allowing me to do this. It has been life-giving in so many ways. Over the next few weeks on Sundays and Wednesdays, I will share with you some of the things I have done and experienced. I will need you all to tell me some of the things you have done and experienced while I have been gone. I have missed you so much!
October 8, my first Sunday back, I will be asking you in the sermon to share with me some of the things you have done, emotions you have felt, while I have been away. It can be church related, it can be personal. I pray it will be a contemplative sharing: meaning you can share with me some of the positive and negative things you have felt with me being gone. I know I have missed some very heartbreaking situations, and it is OK for you to tell me those.
So be ready on October 8th to share some of your thoughts in the worship service you attend.
Together, we can go forward with an unbelievable grasp of life, as the body of Christ. …Afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed. That sounds like a lot of perfect paradoxes to move into this Fall. God is good—even when our circumstances are not. All the time, God is good.
- Pastor Jill