A friend called last week. It reminded me of a conversation with another pastor a few years ago. Despite appearances he expressed feelings of an uncertain future. No. He was not under pressure to do something different. No ominous undercurrents looking to help him down the road. By all accounts most would be satisfied with life and ministry as he lives it.
Most would employ the language of burnout. We are trained to pin the tail on our personal spiritual depth. Maybe we are not praying enough. Our evangelism energies may be waning. Our commitment to study and prepare for the weekly sermon may be neglected. Each analytical tool we have been given points to something we do not have right.
Sometimes the vocabulary we have been given betrays the normal rhythms of spiritual development. Expectations to remain on a constant, both personally and vocationally, belie that sometimes absence means presence. In our tradition there is little room for “dark nights” and times in the “dessert.” These nearly always are assigned the consequence of personal sin.
I recall Peter Rollins’ first book in which he described the “aftermath of God.” On occasion our experience of the presence of God is in his absence. Our understanding of absence most often means departure when it may mean silence. We are not sure how to understand silence. It would be nice if we could reclaim a vocabulary that gave space for these times without leaving us feeling like we must feel saddled by false guilt.