Stumped

My previous three posts explored the limitations of human knowledge. In the end, we really know so very little, and it is a very painful thing to discover about ourselves. It’s not only painful to see, but it’s also painful because our recognition of this limitation almost always dawns on us in great brokenness and in great silence. We are uncomfortable with both. We don’t like being frail and loaded down with more questions than answers – which is what happens when we’re broken. We don’t like being still, and having to hear the deeper questions about our lives drifting through our minds unanswered – which is what happens in silence and solitude.My own sacred journey of renewal provided me heaping amounts of both brokenness and stillness. It began with the brokenness of my burn out. To be frank, I was totally surprised to find myself burnt out. I shouldn’t have been surprised, but I was. I thought I had done everything “right” as a pastor. I knew to avoid being a workaholic. I had done a lot of internal work to deal with any of the inner issues which make one a workaholic. I knew that my significance wasn’t based on my work. I did not know how I became so burnt out, and I did not know exactly how to fix it. Of course I knew that medicating the pain of my burnout through the common pastoral “medicine chest” of an addiction, an affair, or working even harder wasn’t a good solution. But I did not know what was a good solution.  In my brokenness I had to vulnerably admit to the church elders, “I am not okay. I do not know why. I do not know how I got here. I do not know for sure, but I think I need a break – a very long break, and . . . this is scary for me to admit, but I do not know if I will even come back.” The brokenness of my burn out made it perfectly clear how little I really even knew about myself, the person I’d spent my whole life knowing so well in order to keep myself happy.Taking an extended break placed me into an extended time of silence and stillness. Uncomfortable territory. The stillness revealed how little I knew about myself, about my brokenness, and my God. In the stillness my mind endured the bombardment of question after question, deep questions that exposed what I really thought and really felt. “What’s wrong with me? How did I get here? How am I going to get out? Will I ever be okay again? How do I proceed when I don’t even know where I’m going?” I was stumped! In the stillness I came face to face with the pitiful limits of my knowledge and it’s pitiful inability to help me get to where I needed to go. It was a very hard, but very good place to be.