May 15, 2006

Breathing Practice: Washing the Car

Well, I know I’ve written about running, and about making palm crosses. These activities were times of prayer for me, times when my mind could make a retreat from all the clutter, and look at a slightly bigger picture. I feel as if, in these experiences, I’m re-learning how to breathe. The Bible makes frequent comparisons between breath and spirit, and when I say I’m re-learning how to breathe or that I’m reminding myself to breathe, I mean that on all levels. So I’ve given these experiences a name: breathing practice.

Yesterday, my breathing practice came while washing the car…

Mother’s Day worship is always challenging and nerve-wracking for a pastor, because of the danger of accidentally offending or overlooking anyone’s mom. As if that wasn’t enough, I felt called yesterday to preach a rather challenging sermon, one that stretched people, one that I wasn’t sure everyone wanted to hear. I have no doubt that it was a sermon that people needed to hear, … but on Mother’s Day?

Well, the sermon and worship actually went OK. We had a lot of visitors, which was really cool, and the only negative comment was that the service went a little long. (I knew ahead of time that it would, and I tried my best to shorten it, really I did.) But still, I was discouraged. The people of my congregation (bless their hearts) are so focused on our financial needs and our property needs (which are considerable, given that we worship in a 123 year-old building), yet they seem to be unaware of their spiritual needs. One sign of this is the fact that I’ve now decided to cancel our Sunday morning Bible study for adults, because no one comes---not even the elders, the church’s spiritual leaders. As pastor, I know that if these spiritual needs are not met, that none of the others will be, either. I’m trying my best to communicate that, but with limited success.

Anyway, after worship, and after my sons and I took my wife out to lunch, I washed the car. This, at least, was a job I knew I could handle, and a job at which success was almost a given. And it was one I didn’t have to think too hard for. The day was warm, and after wearing a tie all morning (I haven’t figured out a way to avoid that), I put on my swim shorts, grabbed the hose and bucket and soap and rags, and began washing.

As so often happens in situations like this, I couldn’t help but pray. Gradually, I was able to find a measure of peace, and realize that it’s not all about me, anyway, and that perhaps God is working in ways of which I am unaware. And of course, I remembered the so many wonderful things about this congregation, the type of things one tends to forget when an irritation, like a pebble in your shoe, jabs at you.

That’s what a breathing practice does: It gets the pebble out of the shoe. With the pebble out of my shoe, I’m able to look around, and realize what a beautiful day it is after all. The pebble is not gone; it’s still in my hand. But now that I’m looking at it, I realize that it’s not so nearly as big as it felt when it was still in my shoe.


peripateticpolarbear said...

good stuff. sorry i've been missing for a while. been good to catch up (in the blogosphere)

Purple Hydrangea said...

just a quote from a great movie:

Wax On... Wax Off...

good car washing mantra