My holidays ended three weeks ago. My holy days. I love to remember. To feel and see in my mind Venice Beach where the sun shines on the bluest of skies and jasmine mixes with ocean air. Peace. Yet there are always people present. Everyone, even the homeless, evoke energy and relaxation all the same time, and look healthy. Harmony. Everyday I heard the energetic drift of fulsome complex conversations mixed with conversations about fashion, the sound of jazz music, classic rock and folk music and stand up comedy on the boardwalk. The sacred and the profane are at ease there healing or amusing each other, while quandaries, work plans, and laughter join together as if different musical notes in a song. Always followed by a breath of awe as the ocean intervened with a rushing sound of waves upon the beach. The sun lighting the sound like magic.
It’s Eastertide. Holy Days. But not a holiday. Work. Holy Days are both I think. Oddly and frustratingly we don’t name both as such but I think I might start. I do not particularly like the word vacation. It puts things in terms of not being somewhere. Connecting my different kinds of holy days draws me to wholeness. And peace. And light.
At the hospital I have two students from Trinity College who are doing their field placements with me. Their academic year is winding down (or might that be up?) and how do they contain and live with their rush, exams, and writing anxiety while they visit patients who are acutely ill or dying? And seek, or seek to notice, the holy which makes us all whole. For Holy Week I had been thinking about my thoughts on that particular “how” question.
The Gospel reading for Tuesday of Holy Week said, “As long as you have the light, believe in the light so that you might become people whose lives are determined by the light.” My holidays give me so much light. And where I stay tells a tale of so much diverse life in the light. My bed and breakfast is beautiful and faces the boardwalk of the beach. But it is not isolated. Beside the B&B is a place called Phoenix house which is a place for men to stay as they recover from addiction. And beside that is the “Shul on the Beach”. Across from all of those places is a small patch of grass filled with the makings of beds for folks to sleep who have no roof. On either side are the many booths and market stands of the beach and in between are the many musicians, poets, artists, psychics all singing, drawing, talking, or painting. This is the light of Christ for me, both serving and being served. It is what I take to each room I walk in and find lit brighter when I enter. It is about variation and sorrow and joy all mixed up together. It is wholeness. It is the cross and the resurrection life.
What might my answer be to the question? How to live with the rush, and sometimes the anxiety, of work and still be pastoral? I think I would say, make holidays, a time of quiet in yourself be it hours or even minutes while you work or weeks while you do not, a retreat somewhere, or some-time you feel peace. Make it part of your lifelong journey to join those hours or days with your work and it will bring you closer to all whom you care for and serve. I don’t isolate myself and would not suggest it. Holidays are not isolation. Chaplaincy in particular is about not being isloated. And just like my favourite boardwalk chaplaincy is filled with diversity reaching out to connect in the light. Chaplains visit and share. We carry our chapel around to be with others. We seek to help people out of isolation. We seek God in all life. And when I can, I am still midst the cacophany of life. To notice the myriad amazing variety in the life of God’s creation. All beside each other. My answer would be in the stillness with all life around you will see the light arriving, settling, being, and touching in the pain and the hope. And seeing light in the stillness invites/enables sight in pastoral work. A moment of sacrament. God pursues us, walks beside us, and before us. God sometimes disturbs us or nudges us but always loves us. God waits for us, and when we catch up, stand still, or turn around, momentarily or forever, we see the light we are given for our journey to completeness.