We are, as I suggested in my last post, mooching off friends. One of our closest friends, all the way back from junior high, married a wonderful person and moved to Black Mountain, NC. Many Presbyterians know this territory well, because it’s the home of Montreat.
On this second day of my big vacation, I’m overwhelmed with gratitude. A drive from DC to NC will do that to you, from the Shenandoah to the Blue Ridge, the serene views calm the stress of driving.
These mountains are not like the ones in the west (where I’m going to later this month). They’re not made up of that naked, stark grandeur that juts out of the ground and takes your breath away. Rather, they’re fertile and rolling. Each time we would round the corner, there was another vision of a hazy valley, inviting us a little farther down the road.
It was wonderful to arrive at the home of our long-time friends. The really amazing thing about knowing people for so long is that you really get the sense of how much has changed. Being in your thirties is an amazing time. We’ve shed most of the bad habits of our past. We’re in good jobs, or we’ve left them to take care of kids. Everything has changed now that we’ve become parents. Rumi said that when a child is born, a mother is also born. She will never be the same person again.
It’s true for the moms and the dads. We’re all attachment parenting, holding our children constantly, taking them everywhere, and breastfeeding the infants on cue (which seems unfathomable for so many people, unless, of course, you’re part of the cult). Our lives are all intertwined with these wonderful children.
I can’t help but notice that I’ve changed. And I have the pastorate to thank for the evolution. I grew up as a third child, forever the “baby of the family.” My siblings were seven and nine years older than me, which meant that I never won a game, a race, or an argument for the first seventeen years of my life. I had a lot to say, but it was all sort of bottled up inside of me, and I rarely had enough confidence to actually verbalize much.
But forming sermons helped me. I began to pray a little differently, listening and discerning more. I began sorting out my own opinions and feelings about things, first relying heavily on theologians and philosophers, and figuring out which ones made the most sense. I quoted a lot, and my sermons were like lessons on what so-and-so thought about the passage a hundred years ago.
Then I began to hear my own voice within the ancient discussion. I began to think about what God might have to say to us today, and realizing that God was using me to say it. It was shaky and weak at first, but now it’s growing clearer and stronger.
The church gave me this gift, in the form of fifteen uninterrupted minutes of speech (so rare in our society) each week. The church granted me the time and space to grow into a big job. The church allowed me to stand in the pulpit, at the table, and at the font, even though I was a young woman (something that I couldn’t do in the tradition in which I grew up).
As I drive through those rolling hills, and I spend time with my grown-up friends, I cannot help but have an overflowing gratitude for what we have become, and for all that the church has given to me.