I heard it again as I signed onto Zoom. A heaviness in my chest said, I don’t want to do this.
The leader of the Bible study greeted me as names appeared in squares, then faces. I felt a deep affection bubble up for each one there. That’s why you’re here, I reminded myself.
Yet, as time went on, I noticed my disinterest in the reading, how often I looked at the clock, and how relieved I felt when we finished.
Last week, in preparation for our annual Vestry meeting, our priest sent out a reflective guide* to help parishioners discern whether to continue on in their various commitments.
I considered the questions prayerfully and thought about the Bible study. I remembered feeling this way a year ago. I thought about why I felt I needed to be there and what it would be like to trust God to meet that need. As I sat with the thought of leaving the group, I felt sad. I would miss my weekly connection with people who’d adopted me when Fred and I first came to this church seven years ago.
A few days later, I told our priest I was thinking of leaving the Bible study.
“Sounds like it isn’t working for you anymore,” she said.
While I was writing this post, I looked back to what I wrote when I was in this place a year ago. I’d wondered what it would be like to keep going to the group and allow my unsettled feelings to be there. I assumed that if I were less afraid of those feelings, I’d be freed to stay and enjoy the group. Now a year later, I am less afraid of those feelings, and I am free to go.
During my check-in at Bible study the next week, I told the group what I’d discerned.
They were sad and told me they’d miss me too, but no one tried to talk me out of it. They respected my decision.
I’m so grateful for the clear, persistent voice in me that knew I was not where I needed to be. I really wanted Bible study to work for me, and I kept hoping I would change to make that happen. Instead, God was inviting me to accept my limitations as a gift that frees me go where I can thrive.
Essentialism: only once you give yourself permission to stop trying to do it all,
to stop saying yes to everyone, can you make your highest contribution
towards the things that really matter.
― Greg McKeown, Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less
* * *
I was saddened to hear that “Thich Nhat Hanh, the revered Zen Buddhist monk who helped spread the practice of mindfulness in the West and socially engaged Buddhism in the East, has died. He was 95″ (ABC News). I have prayed many times with this guided meditation above. Thich Nhat Hanh once said, “Your body is your first home. Breathing in, I arrive in my body. Breathing out, I am home.” This has encouraged me as I learn to live mindfully. You may enjoy these quotes and this interview with Oprah.
*A Short Guide for Discerning Volunteer Roles
Discerning is a word we use to suggest a more thoughtful and reflective process of making a decision. When we discern we make more room for the Holy Spirit to weigh in.
Give yourself some time and space– at least 10 or 15 minutes–when you can be reflective without too many distractions.
Some questions you might ask yourself about whether to continue in a ministry or regular activity:
- As you look back over your year in this role what was life-giving? What did you enjoy? What did you find challenging?
- Step into the belief that God cares very much for you and for your world and is actively working in this regard. Step into the belief that we are invited to serve from a place of freedom and not obligation. Imagine yourself with the choice of continuing for another year in one hand and not continuing in the other. Both are equally good choices. Let any judgments, “shoulds” or fear of guilt fall away. What feelings arise? Does one hand feel heavier than the other?
- Imagine Jesus standing before you smiling lovingly at you and looking at one hand and then the other and then back to you. He asks you, “What would you like to do?”
- Choose one option as if you’ve made the decision. For the next day or two walk around with your choice. Do you feel more or less peace? What thoughts add to your peace or diminish it? Do fears arise? Perhaps you’d like to share those fears with Jesus or talk it over with a spiritual director, mentor or friend.