Can’t Find the Words … Would Someone Consider Reclaiming a Lost Vocabulary

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.

About the Author
Husband to Patty. Daddy to Kimberly and Tommie. Grandpa Doc to Cohen, Max, Fox, and Marlee. Pastor to Snow Hill Baptist Church. Graduate of Oklahoma Baptist University and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Reading. Photography. Golf. Colorado. Jeeping. Friend. The views and opinions expressed here are my own and should not be construed as representing the corporate views of the church I pastor.

2 comments on “Can’t Find the Words … Would Someone Consider Reclaiming a Lost Vocabulary

  1. Scott says:

    “Jesus has a very special love for you. As for me, the silence and the emptiness is so great that I look and do not see, listen and do not hear.”
    â?? Mother Teresa to the Rev. Michael Van Der Peet, September 1979

    I don’t know if it should reassure us that others besides ourselves feel this way too, occasionally.

  2. Todd Littleton says:

    Thanks for the Mother Teresa quote. I would think for many it is indeed helpful to know others walk the same road.

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