As a completely novice sailor I know what it is to be knocked sideways by the gentlest breezes.
Last summer I thought I was doing really well – I tacked all week and didn’t go in once. Not once.
‘OK,’ said Dave, ‘let’s try jibing’ (that’s just turning the boat the other way – how hard could that be?
And it was the gentlest of breezes.
Now it’s happened again, but on dry land.
As a horny-handed, been-lashed-to-the-mast-for-years pastor I thought I knew what I was doing.
And then the other week, I had a funeral – and it ruined my concentration for days, and made me frustrated and grumpy.
Now I’ve done my fair share of funerals, so this wasn’t the scariness of novelty. Nor was it one hedged around with pastoral nightmares and sensitivities. He’d been a decent and much-loved gent, and died in late eighties. He wasn’t a Christian as far as I know, but I’ve handled that often enough, and have some basic messages that I can give on those occasions, suitably adapted. And I didn’t have to do that icky thing of sounding as though I knew him well, because there were some rich family tributes.
So how come I had a capsize?
First, I didn’t contain the task. I’m slowly learning that the best way to handle things like this is to put in the diary the hour or so that it will take to get the event ready, and just address it head on. Then put it to bed. Because I didn’t do that I didn’t give all of my brain to it once, and so it took up part of my brain for a number of days. That was silly of me.
Second, I took on some of the admin for the service, which was kindly meant to the family but unnecessary. That added some pressures when the timings started to go a bit awry.
Third, I’ve been working recently on learning the lesson that when I say ‘yes’ to something, I am inevitably saying ‘no’ to other things and I was irritated with myself for all the good things I had to postpone because of the unnecessary elements I’d picked up, and my unfocussed way of handling them.
Fourth, the emotional experience was like having nerves – except that you can usually ‘rescript’ nerves as a bit of excitement and feel better about it. There was no excitement at all – just worry that it wouldn’t go well for the family. For no apparent reason at all.
And I was cross with myself for not having learnt all those lessons properly already!
Biblically, I guess I’m learning again how much I like to be in control of my own time and priorities, and how one thing that isn’t in my control really shows up how much I tend to idolise that. I didn’t ask to take the funeral, nor was it anyone we had any contact with, and the family all came from different parts of the country so there’s no chance of any meaningful contact. So this really was being done out of a sense of decency and duty, and a (slight) opportunity to preach the gospel.
God has given us all the time to do all the work he has stored up for us. There is no need for me to fret, and there is no excuse to fritter.
Because one day my diary will have another funeral in, that really will disrupt things…