Taking a Break from God?
Is it possible or even desirable...?
One of the ironies in the pastoral life today, denominational-style, is “taking a break” from one’s professional vocation, one’s mundane immersion in sacred things. Brian and I had an interesting ‘muse’ this week about vacation and taking time “off.” I was genuinely curious what it felt like for him, to take a break from all the God things his life entails. Is it possible to have too much of a God thing? Is it conceivable to take time “away from God”?
This has often been a testy topic for my beloved and me, given each of us immerses in the sacred so very differently. I’ve always loved his deep intellectual and spiritual curiosity within Christian historical-scriptural tradition(s). He has appreciated deeply my own practical-theological passions, expressed much more in the relational-contextual realms than in any overtly institutional fashion. We find overlap all the time (these days), with different ways to appreciate the distinctiveness that the other brings to our soul-hitched journey together.
Yet he can get frustrated with my refusal of intellectual pursuits these days, given I’m much less interested in academic questions than I used to (have to) be. My relational center often marvels—sometimes with concern/judgment, sometimes with sadness/curiosity—at how little I can feel his own spiritual passions sometimes. For him. For his own spiritual health. Like on vacation. So I asked him, in my sadness and curiosity mode: Does vacation feel like you take a break from God?
He was more forthcoming than I expected, naming his own awareness of that conundrum, well known to any long-term pastors. When your daily work is tending to the sacred journeys of others, alongside the various/sundry pastoral concerns—elevator licenses and building maintenance, unexpected fears and anxieties of congregation-members, etc.—it can mean that vacation time is a break from “the sacred journeys of others, perhaps even your own.” Or something like that, in his own words…
I smiled…as my own growth was being able to receive this without any sense of concern or judgment, or at least much less judgment than I used to feel inside (if some is there unconsciously). It’s significant that my own sacred journey didn’t feel abandoned or dismissed, as his partner.
Earlier, the previous day, we were walking along the beach as I became aware of my own sadness, even feeling of spiritual disconnection to this man walking next to me. My go-to place is to then seek for connection, assurance in some shared practice. I’ve stopped even trying to invite that, as it’s not really his or our style. I began to formulate some of these thoughts as I walked, sad, a little curious, but silent.
Within seconds, unaware of any of this going on in me, he reached for my hand as we walked. We walked hand in hand for a long while.
Connection need not be overtly spoken in God-terms for there to be a strong sense of Godde, I’ve decided.