It lasted maybe ten seconds. I was at the kitchen sink scrubbing pots. My ears were filled with CBC radio. My brain was on autopilot. The people of my week were coming across my inner screen like a movie. One face after another. Each face was a story shared with me – a life’s story, painful transitions, crises, ending sorrows and joyful beginnings.
I became aware of a feeling in my chest cavity. No not that aching, heavy feeling men who eat too much meat and don’t exercise get. It was a feeling of lightness. As my attention turned to it, it grew in intensity and I felt - what I can only describe as - elation.
I associated it with what had been passing through my mind. As I was “praying” for these people I had a sense that I belonged to them and they belonged to me. I guess you might call it a Shepherd/Flock kind of thing. I had a sense – an indescribable sense – of fulfilling a purpose of GOD’s.
“You know well enough how the wind blows this way and that. You hear it rustling through the trees, but you have no idea where it comes from or where it’s headed next. That’s the way it is with everyone ‘born from above’ by the wind of God, the Spirit of God.” (John 3:8 Jesus to Nicodemus)
The feeling passed and I tucked it away as a curious small gift I’d received. Maybe a week later I made a sojourn to see my Spiritual Director. I was telling Brenda about the summer’s events and that memory popped up. When I shared with her about the elation I’d felt in my chest she said “Now we’re getting somewhere!”.
To me – it was a cool thing. To her – it was a very real sign of a shift.
She said “You haven’t felt that in a long time have you?”.
I said “I don’t ever remember feeling that way.”
She said “Well, at least not as a Pastor.”
I suppose she knew that I’d felt that way before. I suppose it’s just been so long. I went searching in my memory. I could only come up with feeling joy in my head – maybe as far down as the back of my throat going up through my cerebral cortex.
But then I went further back. That elation. That lightness. It’s the feeling you get at the height of a swing’s arc – you know – when you are really pumping it through. On the way backwards it pulls at your groin and you know you’re getting there. And then you swoosh forward through the arc with one last big pump and the swing takes you up, up, and your bum lifts off the seat, the chains go slack, and for just a split second – you take flight.
Is it what they call the “Incredible Lightness of Being”? It sure feels good. Brenda connected it with my journey. She identified for me that the reason I was feeling this was that my authentic inner self was connecting with my outer self. My role in the world as Pastor was being fed by my inner Artist. Instead of the two living in separate spheres – interior and exterior experiences – they were merging. My inner voice is surfacing. My outer face is expressing – not only what is in my head (the shoulds, the socially appropriate cues) but - what is in my heart.
For some reason I’ve been noticing smiles in films lately. I notice how an actor, in a scene where they are expressing extreme stress or pain or fear, will use a smile to try to put a stranger at ease. It’s like holding up a sign that says “I’m not a threat”.
How often does my face work on it’s own? Like a dog’s ears going up. Does my face say what’s necessary in the situation? How often is it reacting to my perceived notions of what’s socially correct? How much of my life is on auto-pilot?
Signs like that feeling in my chest are signs that I am waking up. In my soul-questing - as I dig and pull away at the roots of my social conditioning, as I tear down the walls I’ve erected to live in - lath and plaster to reveal the old 2x4s framing empty space – I am rediscovering rooms within me where I’ve left my child heart. I am finding sources of courage that I used long ago to fight dragons and dark enemies. I am reclaiming the power of my GOD given imagination to use in the light of today.
I suppose it’s a sign that there’s hope for me yet. Maybe I won’t let the weight and the brutality and the injustice and way that life deals out terribly unfair series of blows to families and innocent victims – turn my broken heart to stone. Maybe my head will do a life-saving deal with heart and guts and come up with a partnership to stay awake, keep swinging, keep pumping energy into every day - inviting GOD’s centrifical spirit to lift me up - free for just a moment - from the pull of life-and-death gravity.
Being a pastor is full of surprises. I always feel like I’m never doing enough. My brain constantly churns out things I could have said and things I should do. And people are always telling me how much they appreciate everything I do. Sometimes I feel like all I really need to do is walk around town with a light step.
A Pastor is like a magnet for bad news. Everyone deposits the troubles of the day at the Pastor’s feet. The Pastor receives the bad news and in some small way gives a sign that “it’s going to be okay”.
If you see a Pastor with their eyes and shoulders pulled to the pavement, it’s like a cloud of doubt. Understandable for sure. So human to get the blues. I’d be suspicious of any Pastor who doesn’t get their soul dragged down into the mud from time to time.
But, when you see a Pastor walking around town with joy in their eyes and a spring in their step you know the truth. You know that there’s no news so bad, no troubles so deep, that’ll take away the joy of Jesus Christ that blows through every crack of hope we open and lifts us to those moments on the wings of a pure white dove.