12 Hours ’till I’m Gone

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I have 12 hours to finish everything. Today’s my last day in the office before sabbatical. Tomorrow and the next day we’ll be at an Annual Conference and then the day after that…I’m gone. As we say in Spanish, I’ll be “historia!” Actually, we don’t say that in Spanish. 11 hours 58 minutes.
As Samuel Johnson said, “when a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully.” The same could be said for a sabbatical although with less permanence. So this is me concentrating.
Basically I’m supposed to have done everything I was going to do in the next three months: articles written, proposals drafted, strategies developed, personnel matters sorted out, budgets created, and crises averted. You’ll be surprised to learn I haven’t gotten it all done.
I’m curious as to how I’ll react, perhaps not the first morning, perhaps a few days into the sabbatical, when I wake up and realize that somehow the church is carrying on just fine without me, thank you very much. Somehow, probably incredibly to you, the church will stumble forward even when I’m not at my post. False humility aside, will my contribution be missed? (Here’s where you respond to this post with sincere outbursts of affection and affirmation).
But balancing that concern is my excitement about my project. Every sabbatical needs a project; it’s how we justify our time away. So I’m telling stories and making videos of the stories. Stories from the Book, in the oral tradition. As though the stories had been told to me and now I’m re-telling them so they won’t be lost. But unfortunately no one every told most of them to me, they read them to me and had me read them to myself. Which is different. More accurate, but poorer.

All due respect to Gutenberg but I like the oral tradition. I like campfires. I like the sound of the voice, the pauses, the tightening of the vocal chords, the lungs filled with volume for the fearful character; I like the smile on the lips, the crinkle of the eyes, the searching for the right word while the hearers wait for it. But most of all I love the pause at the end of the story. When the listeners realize that together they’ve experienced it. Each one in their own mind, but together they’re re-lived the action, the suspense, the climax, the denouement. Today I wrote the skeleton of one of the stories. It starts off, “There were these two trees.” Of course, it’s the story of the garden. At the end, we will have been in that greenness and will have felt the bark of those two trees, if I tell it well.


So please don’t create any crisis while I’m gone and if you do, fix it yourself. And please tell me you missed me when I come back. And please know that I’m enjoying every minute of these three months and hope to tell some of the stories well, and drink coffee with my wife in the mornings, and linger in the Word. And please, somebody, turn off that count-down clock!