‘Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost.’
Two weeks ago, the diocesan staff spent the better part of a day taking stock of our work in light of the intentions we set at the beginning of 2021. We celebrated accomplishments, talked through the challenges we faced, and reflected on what we had learned. Then we cast our gaze toward the season before us and set our intentions for the summer and early fall in light of our overall goals for the year. You can read staff goals and intentions here, and we’ll discuss them with Diocesan Council at the June meeting.
This practice of prayerfully setting intentions, working toward them, evaluating our work, and repeating the process going forward has been one of the most fruitful outcomes of the diocesan strategic plan. It has helped keep us on course, or get back on course, when faced with crises, unforeseen circumstances, and new opportunities.
Yet as we pondered the season ahead, we realized that for us individually and together as a diocese, we are still in uncharted waters. The summer may have plans of its own. Part of our intentions, then, both for work and in our personal lives, is to allow ourselves to practice Sabbath–time set apart, in the words of Jewish philosopher Abraham Joshua Heschel, “to mend our tattered lives.”
For it may be that we can’t fully feel the impact of what we’ve missed until there is space to reclaim it; that we can’t grieve all we’ve lost until the reality of loss sinks in; and that we won’t realize how tired we are until given a chance to rest.
Conversely, the joy we feel for the simple pleasures long denied can be exhilarating, intoxicating even. “It feels so good to make plans again,” one of our sons said recently, and he wasn’t referring to strategic plans at work, but rather plans to reunite with family, see friends, and have a few out-of-town adventures. How we all need such plans this summer. Sabbath, Herschel reminds us, is for both the body and the soul, for healing and for joy.
Thus as we set our work intentions as your diocesan staff, we made sure that everyone’s plans included time to rest, to get away, to celebrate joyful moments and rites of passage, and make space for waves of deferred grief or exhaustion to wash over us from time to time.
Here is my prayer for you: that alongside whatever summer work is yours to plan and accomplish, may you take intentional time for rest and renewal, joy and celebration, and space, when you need it, to grieve.
It’s helpful for me to have a mantra to keep my intentions close to heart and mind. The one that came to me in prayer this week was what Jesus said to the disciples after feeding a multitude with a few loaves and some fish:
“Gather up the fragments, so that none may be lost.”
He was referring to the extra pieces of food left over after all had eaten their fill. But the imperative to gather up fragments feels particularly important this summer–right alongside his exhortation to look at the birds and consider the lilies. For me, it’s a gentle, but firm call to gather up the pieces of my life that I’ve missed or neglected in the last year, to accept the parts that are truly fragmented and let them be, and to be mindful of what lies beyond the margins of my awareness.
So during my time of intentional rest this summer, I’ll be in a bit of a scavenger hunt, gathering up the fragments of my life. I invite you to do the same.
In the gathering, it might occur to us to do something with a particular fragment. That action could be part of our plans for the summer, but perhaps not. Remember that Jesus didn’t say to put the fragments back together, only to gather them up.
That, in itself, is an intention, a way of honoring our souls for all they have endured this year, and allowing the Holy Spirit to gently guide us through a season marked by the plans we make and the need, at times, not to plan anything at all, but rather be led by grace to places of refreshment and healing.