- John Van Sloten
The Hard Work of Stopping
For months now I've been in a process of stopping. Eight months ago I left my job as a local church pastor. Seven months ago my book was released with the requisite 3 months of all-encompassing marketing activity (which has now faded). Six months ago I attended a Collegeville writer's workshop where I learned how to write for a general audience (and published a cool RNS piece). Five months ago I wrote a couple small articles for QARA and Christian Courier. Four months ago I became aware of a noticeable lack of email volume and book chatter. Three months ago I prepared two talks for a teacher's conference (pretty much all I did that month). Two months ago I gave those talks. Last month I led a one day preacher's workshop (and that's it). And this week I preached my last freelance sermon (for the next six months) and finished interviewing a writer for Christianity Today, and will have coffee with one last person at 11:00, and then be done.
With nothing to do. My schedule wide open for the next six months... with all the time in the world to begin my third book.
I can't recall having ever slowed down this much (and being okay with it). It's hard being yourself when you're not doing anything - pulling that performance needle out of your arm. But I think I'm there now. I simply am; at rest, quieted and content.
Last night I woke up with the realization that the deep struggle of these past few months shouldn't have been a surprise. Getting the vision of an everywhere-working God out there will, of course, be met with apathy and opposition (who wants a God who is that powerful, present and out of control? Better to keep him tucked between the covers of the bible).
After praying about the hard work that lies ahead I then prayed for a whole bunch of people I'd met over the past few years - people of influence, city leaders, etc... then I prayed for some of the institutions in our city, and for my family. I prayed with a fervency and clarity that I hadn't felt for many years. I was inspired to do this because I came to realize (again) that what's impossible for me to do, is quite possible for God. In particular I was reminded of the Holy Spirit's power to accomplish what God wants done.
This morning I read a bible passage that perfectly encapsulated all of the thoughts that had comforted and compelled me last night;
"We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins." Colossians 1:9-14
I believe with all my heart that God wants people to know him for who he is (in all things). So I trust that, when the time is right, I'll know his will, step into my new work, grow in my knowledge of God, be strengthened by his power, have great endurance and patience, and will be filled with joy as I thank God for the privilege of being a part of his kingdom work. This is what he saved me for.