The fastest growing sport in Norway is wingsuit jumping. It’s the pastime of lunatics, or it’s what warrior-knights do in an age without dragons. It requires steel nerves, a cool-head, a touch of madness. You must be able to look fast-approaching catastrophe in the face, and whoop.
I go onto to describe the equipment: a kind of giant flying squirrel bodysuit that turns the jumper, splayed wide open, into a human kite, sans string. The sport, also called base jumping, has become a worldwide phenomenon.
I did it last weekend.
Not literally. I’m neither brave nor crazy enough for that. I did it figuratively, except with all the same sensations I imagine base-jumpers experience – utmost dread, giddy anticipation, sheer terror, pure exhilaration, an urgent visceral sense that if I live through this it will be one of the most daring things I’ve ever attempted, and if I don’t live I will at least die with a certain flair.
Last weekend I resigned.
I have been in pastoral ministry nearly 24 years, and in my current post over 17. I’ve loved every day of it, except the days I haven’t (usually Mondays, when I nurse a post-sermon hangover and writhe in existential angst about, well, everything). The role has shaped me beyond measure. Being a pastor has done more in me than I have ever done being a pastor. I entered the role soon after my 29th birthday. I will step out of the role just past my 53rd. Between those two milestones lies a universe. I am not the same man. And yet, I am more myself than ever. The pastorate has been trial by ordeal and foretaste of heaven, often on the same day. I have failed miserably and succeeded beyond my wildest hopes. I am loved, and I am despised. I have been a prophet, and a fool. I have poured myself out like a drink offering, and sometimes squandered myself like a cheap piñata. It has been awesome, and burdensome, glorious, and tedious, and altogether beautiful.
And last Sunday, I quit.
Well, not exactly. I announced to my congregation that I would be stepping down as their pastor on June 16. They were justly slightly more shocked than I was. I truly thought I’d be here until roll call.
I do have a landing spot (we’re back to the base jumping metaphor): Ambrose College in Calgary, Alberta – my birth town, now grown vast and rich, but no warmer come winter. I have been appointed Associate Professor of Pastoral Theology at Ambrose Seminary. I start August 1.
Maybe the letter I read my congregation last Sunday best explains all that. Please click this link to see that. Letter
I covet your prayers for me and my family, and also for New Life Church.
Pray we all land, if not softly, at least intact.
To a writer, nothing is more exhilarating than a blank page.
To a writer, nothing is more terrifying than a blank page.
It all depends. A blank page either invites or it taunts. It awakens imagination, beckons invention, stimulates creativity. Or it mirrors your own blankness, echoes and mocks your own bottomless emptiness. It applauds your genius, or accuses your mediocrity. It calls forth your best self, or jeers the failure you long suspected you were.
For writers, the blank page is a great gift, or a terrible curse. Best friend, or worst enemy.
It all depends.
I write this after staring at a blank page for an inordinately long time. Some days, just the sight of one quickens me like gunshot, and triggers in me an outpouring of ideas that almost magically shape themselves into words, phrases, sentences, paragraphs, pages. On my best days, I’m like an amanuensis to myself. It’s like I’m taking notes on someone else, someone bright and eloquent. It’s that easy.
But not today. Indeed, not most days. Today is just an extreme version of most days. Today, the blank page gloats at my stuckness, and then resists almost every word I try to score it with: awkward, trite, cliché, wooden, it says. Can’t you do better than that? it asks.
Today, no, I can’t. It’s all I have.
I give it anyhow.