I’ve returned to my on-going work as a pastor of a local congregation after an extended weekend away. This week I have a sermon to research, pray on, write, and deliver. I have pastoral calls to make. Administrative stuff to decide. Tasks to delegate. In many ways my job is no different from any other. But for us who are pastors, there is also the matter of the gospel and how it is Jesus expects us to live. It’s a large message, and pastors can get caught up in the largeness and the importance of the work we do.
I also took a break over the weekend from a role I take quite seriously. Activist. Specifically to the issue of ending gun violence. Over my 4 day break, close to 350 people probably died in our country from a gunshot wound and nearly 10% of those were likely children. The two sides on the issue didn’t come any closer to agreement, and I”m sure the verbal sparring continued on social media. It’s a large issue with large life and death consequences.
But there are 3 prongs of identity to my signature. I’m also a parent. And it was that role that took me away from the other 2. David and I were asked to be full-time grandparents as our daughter and son-in-law had a wedding to attend out of state. It also happened to be a birthday weekend — mine and my grandson’s first. To offer some context, David and I are two of 8 grandparents, as all of us have been married, divorced, and married again. We are one of those blended families you either read about or are part of yourself. We are the only 2 who live out of town. The only ones who see this little boy’s antics mostly on Skype. To be offered the opportunity of a weekend is the stuff of our dreams!
So, important pastor’s work was covered ably by others. Activist’s work was put on hold. And our weekend became the stuff of little things. Would the little guy sleep all night? Would he be glad to see us in the morning? Would he stick to the schedule his parents’ expected us to keep? Those were our only stressors. But oh so quickly any stresses, large or small, morphed into an alternate state of being for me.
Celebrating the small, seemingly inconsequential, moments of the day. A smile and a giggle. A hesitant step before falling on his bottom. Watching the pleasurable sensations of mashing a banana whether to feed it to yourself or to offer it to the dog patiently waiting next to the highchair. His small little redhead resting on my shoulder signaling time for a nap, grandma. His trust that we were enough. In that sleepy moment and when he would wake up. What we had to give was what he needed. And what he gave to us, the same.
And so much more.
Henri Nouwen once wrote: Because life is very small, you can never see it happening. Have you ever seen a tree actually grow? Can you see a child grow? Growth is too gentle, too tender. Life is basically hidden. It is small and begs for constant care and protection. If you are committed to always saying yes to life, you are going to have to become a person who chooses it when it is hidden.
I did see a child grow last weekend because I was focused on small moments. I don’t know what my grandson saw. He’s not a writer, nor does he speak so we know what he means. Not yet. But I hope he saw me grow, as he taught me the value of small. Did he know that in his small and gentle ways, he had the power to bring me back to life? He did.
So, I’m back to what I do and what I believe I am called to do. Will I change the world today? I hope I”ll make a difference to someone. Will I grow because I’ve witnessed life giving moments however small? I pray so.
Pastor. Parent. Activist.