Releasing the Outcome
June 14, 2023
A Note from Pastor April
I might have preached a sermon on Releasing the Outcome on Sunday, but this doesn’t mean that I’m good at it.
A couple of years ago, we introduced you to the Palms Up Path, through my good friend and colleague the Rev. Jenny Smith.
It’s four easy-to-understand steps around how we seek to live our lives with God.
Cooperate with God
Release the Outcome
I’m not suggesting that any of these steps are easy, but I have made some good progress in learning how to be more present in the moment and even admitting that I cannot move forward without listening and being attentive to the work of God.
Still, I have very specific outcomes I’m desiring. I can see them with crystal clarity in my mind. I don’t release these easily.
Starting on July 16th, I will be taking a four-month renewal leave from my duties at the church. In the United Methodist church, clergy are allowed to take a few months off every six years of ministry.
My last renewal leave was in 2016 during the two months prior to arriving at Hilliard UMC. A very large part of that time was spent packing and unpacking as we relocated to Hilliard. I was so grateful to have the time before starting work, but to be honest… it wasn’t nearly as restful and renewing as I had hoped.
I want these four months to feel different. I want there to be time and space with my family at home, just resting and being and enjoying time together. I want to travel and spend some time with dear friends who live entirely too far away, people I don’t get to see very often. I also want some space to be in solitude and prayer as I try to rest my soul and spirit and listen to the voice of God within.
One of the things I want to do early in my time of leave is to take an extended silent meditation retreat. A dear friend of mine embarked on such a retreat about a decade ago, and I watched the ways that it created space for healing and transformation.
When I first heard her talk about it, I felt like spending ten days meditating with others in silence would be entirely too daunting for me. As the years have passed, the idea has slowly grown on me.
I took a shorter version of this retreat during the first days of my last renewal leave. It was five days of silence, with thirty minutes of talking to a spiritual director each day. It was hard but deeply meaningful. This ten-day experience will involve no phones, journals, or books.
It had taken me years to finally feel ready to apply for one of these ten-day silent retreats.
It never dawned on me that there might not be space for me.
The first time I tried to apply was on a Sunday in April. The application for the retreat opened at 11am on a Sunday morning. Needless to say, I was kind of busy at that exact hour. I opened my computer that afternoon around 12:15pm to fill out the application, only to find that all the spots were already filled.
The second time I was more prepared. It was a Friday in May. I logged on at the exact moment the applications were available and submitted my application as quickly as I could. I received confirmation that it was received. I even received a quick follow-up email to ask some questions about my willingness to follow their COVID protocols.
For weeks, I’ve been checking my email daily, waiting to hear whether I’m accepted or not.
After two weeks, I sent a message just to make sure I hadn’t somehow missed something.
As the days went by, I found myself getting more and more irritated.
Couldn’t they just reply?
What was taking so long?
Couldn’t they see that I NEEDED to know so I could PLAN MY TRIP?
WERE THEY TRYING TO MAKE ME INSANE?
Despite his attempt at humor, I didn’t find my husband’s response — “I’m sure they’re meditating on your application” — to be particularly helpful.
Releasing the Outcome
Last week, the irony was not lost on me that I was writing a sermon on RELEASING THE OUTCOME while obsessively checking my email about an outcome that I was waiting on….
I’m still waiting.
I’ll tell you that preaching that sermon (mostly to myself) helped me begin to remember some important things.
This renewal leave is a gift.
How many people have an amazing congregation or place of work who will allow them this kind of time away? (Thank you, by the way!)
Whatever happens during this time will also be a gift.
It may not be the exact thing I’ve had in my mind for years.
Ready to Receive
Perhaps… if I can unclench my fist around this particular outcome… then maybe I’ll actually be ready to receive whatever God has in store for this time.
As I play with what it feels like to loosen my grip around this outcome, it’s helping me to be a bit more honest about a few other things surrounding this leave.
I’m a bit nervous.
I’ve never had four months of my life where I wasn’t either working or in school.
I’m a bit sad about being away for some of the amazing things that will be happening at HUMC.
I’m also unsure about how God may choose to speak to me in the places of solitude along the journey.
Perhaps it was easier to obsessively check my email than to consider what was going on inside.
I’m so grateful to be in a community where I don’t have to pretend that I’ve got it all figured out. I’m so grateful to be in a community where we can continue to work on these parts of our spiritual journey together.
The Rev. April Blaine