Tuesday, June 21, 2016

June Gloom in an Endless Summer

I write this as the temperature blazes its way through 100ºF on its way to a record 108! Although it's summer, this kind of heat-wave is uncommon for June. Californians refer to the normally overcast weather as June Gloom, the month when everybody's ready for summer but the sun is hiding behind the clouds like an out-of-shape swimmer behind his Hawaiian shirt. Well, today in June, the sun is flaunting himself in all his glory, thank you very much. Thank God for the common grace of air conditioner. 

As a pastor in my 9th Californian summer, I've come to notice my own kind of June GloomI tend to get a bit gloomy in my soul around this time of year,  partly because my kids start their vacation in June and I have to carry on working so I feel like I'm missing out. I love summer when I'm on vacation with them but that's less than 20% of the time. Secondly, it just feels too long. Three months is why they called the movie Endless Summer. I'm told it's still a hang-over from the agricultural era when kids used to help their parents on the farm during harvest-time, but the last time I checked, Californian kids weren't doing any yard work, let alone farm work, so why can't they just halve it and give us more time to rest in December before the year begins? 

If I'm honest though, the real reason for my June Gloom is that for three months the church thins out and slows down. I don't begrudge anyone taking vacation. The pace of life is relentless here, and people need to breathe. I'm looking forward to that on our own vacation  greatly. But it is difficult leading a church when, for 3 months, people are more absent than present, gatherings feel more sparse, mission slows down and you feel like you are preaching to a passing parade. To add insult to injury, vacation often takes it's own toll on people spiritually and relationally, so you end up doing a fair bit of crisis pastoring. And then there are those people who get  job transfers that take them out of state. They normally tell you about that in June. 

To top it all, we are about to send our 3rd team of planters out in 3 years, this time to plant a church in Thailand! I lead a remarkably generous and faithful church, but right now I find myself wanting to jump up and down and shout, "Hey everyone! We are planting a church into Thailand! It's not business as usual! We are a Battle ship going to war. We need all hands-on-deck! If we live like we are on a summer Cruise-Liner we won't make it!" I know you're probably thinking, "Man this guy needs to lighten up," and that may be, but this this is my reality. Summer can feel like a big, sunny, church momentum-killer. 

Yesterday, as I worshipped and preached on how Jesus came to set us free from slavishness, I felt the Father minister to me around my June Gloom. I sensed Him speak to me about my tendency to find my identity in ministry, which means that it is not just church momentum that takes a hit in summer. It is my sense of validation. This turns a challenging, yet very normal rhythm, into my very own June Gloom. If my validation is in ministry momentum, then a lack thereof will turn me into an invalid. As an adopted son of my Father in heaven, my status does not change with less momentum. My validation is secure because Jesus was completely invalidated for me on the cross. When the Son sets me free, I am free indeed, even from slavishness to ministry validation. I've felt a new buoyancy and intimacy with God since then. 

Many of us suffer from our own June Gloom in other ways. It may be that summer comes with a slowing down of business. Or perhaps because of financial lack you have to take a long staycation while everyone else travels. Or your lack of relationships causes you to feel isolated while everyone else seems to have so much fun together. Maybe the sense of escalating conflict and tragedy in the world right now has caused a gloominess, or perhaps you don't like the way you look in a swimsuit! All these are valid and real reasons to dread and endure this season rather than enjoy it.  But when we live from our status as adopted sons and daughters, we are freed from a slavishness to the things we strive for, and are given an unsinkable buoyancy amidst the ebbs and flows of work, relationships, ministry and life in general. 

Today, I pray for you what I pray for myself; that God, by His Spirit, would remove slavishness and replace it with a spirit of sonship, and that by His Spirit we would cry out to our Father who knows us and loves us more than anyone. 

"Melt the clouds of sin and sadness, drive the dark of doubt away, Giver of immortal gladness fill us with the light of day." 

Happy Summer, everyone!