Abundant Life?


Every now and then you have “one of those days” as a clergy person. Not the kind that means everything has gone wrong but rather the kind of day that reminds you what life is really about. I had one such day this summer. In the space of twenty four hours I read the prayers for the Dying for individuals who were in the process of death, visited members and friends of the parish who were in the hospital, said a blessing for a new born child, helped a parishioner in dire personal straits, and worked on planning an upcoming wedding. All this while trying to keep up the daily tasks the are needed to keep a parish like Trinity running.

Days like that are overwhelming in just about every category I can think of. They are exhausting physically, mentally and spiritually. At the end of the day there is a sense of pride in having achieved a great deal. And yet, there can be a deeper message found in them as well.

Praise be to God that such days are few and far between. I know that every clergy person I speak to has had them, and I expect that every profession has their own version as well. Days like that cause you to work your way through the breadth of the vocation to which have been called or have chosen. They are reminders to each of us of what we are about in our working lives.

And yet… Even though if feels like we‚Äôve been all the way to the top of the mountain and come back down, there is more that we have probably missed. So much of the experience of that day this summer focused on ‚Äúwork‚Äù and not on ‚Äúhome‚Äù or ‚Äúfamily‚Äù. In the day I had, there was little time to sit down to a meal with my family. There was no time put my feet up and relax with a good book. I came home late, made a quick snack for dinner and went right away to a computer to start catching up on what I had not managed to cover during the hours of the work-day.

In looking back and reflecting on the day I recognize that even though I thought I had experienced the complete expression of life that day, I was missing at least half of what my life truly is. My life is more than just “what I do for a living.” My life is includes that, but there is actually more. Life includes the people you love, the community in which you live, and the hobbies and activities which bring inner refreshment and renewal. I have a tendency to forget this truth, and I think I did just that on my busy day this summer.

I’m guessing that I’m not alone in all this. I expect that many of you reading this note often find yourselves over-focussing on one aspect or another of your whole life. For some that focus may be on work, for others on home-life, for others on friends and for some on hobbies. But almost no matter what aspect it is, we inevitably tend to over-focus on one piece of our lives to the detriment of the others.

I don’t believe this sort of lack of balance is what Jesus wants for us in our earthly lives. The unbalanced nature of our common experience tends to cause parts of lives to become vestigal over time and given enough time those aspects can whither away and be lost forever. People lose contact with their friends, their family, the activities that they love to do, the joy they used to feel at completing a hard task at work. Jesus calls us to have life and to have it abundantly. I don’t think that losing meaningful pieces of our lives to neglect is what Jesus means when he says “have life abundantly”.

I write these words to you this month because September is the time of year when we talk about life getting back to “normal”. School resumes after the summer holiday. People return to the office from vacation. Local committees and boards restart their regular meeting schedules. People settle back into the routine that will carry them through to the next round of holidays. We tend to make yearly resolutions about changing our lives in January Рbut in truth the days when we can best effect changes in our lives are found now as we return to what is normal.

As you once again pick up that routine this year, ask yourself if you are living your life to the fullness that Christ asks of you. If you find things missing, or parts of your life slowly fading away, now is the time to begin to put matters aright. Make your resolutions now and ask God’s grace that you keep them. May God grant you the wisdom to recognize what it is that God wants to be in your life, and may God grant you the will and purpose to keep those life giving pieces close to hand.

Blessings on you this month.

The Author

Episcopal bishop, dad, astronomer, erstwhile dancer...