I am fallow now, retreating from the surging and spastic current of pastoral ministry for a season. My central task has been to rest, to first exhale the stale air of battle and then suck in the rarified atmosphere of heaven. To wash the blood from my knuckles and tend my wounds, to pry my rigid white knuckles from the sword of my office and wander again into the north forty of my world—a sleepy Hobbiton yet untouched by the capricious shadow of the ring. To gaze into the still waters to which my shepherd leads me and behold my reflection cast there by his word and my vision of it.

At first I just go numb, held captive as the numbing buzz of a million intense ideas drips slowly—painfully slowly—from the front of my mind. Weeks later, I am finally and gloriously emptied of these frenzies, purged of striving, cleansed of agendas, visions, paper, goals, and groaning. I don’t miss any of it, don’t mourn the stuff I’ve been swimming in as God flushes it away. I don’t feel empty, not less-than, not eager to do or make or please. I’m not lonely, stilted, jilted. I don’t want anything and embrace the sweetness of that nectar which can only be an oasis to sooth my aching feet along my journey, not a destination in itself.

Gradually, though, holy desires resurface—childlike, free of the pithy grimes that settle on a soul too busy to bathe lest holy moments slip away untapped. I relish them as these passions as they come, enjoying their presence as I entertain them one at a time. They, too, seem to enjoy occupying my heart without the tick of unforgiving clocks bullied by clamouring voices.

I breathe the air I’m given, inhaling patiently, wondering if it’s heavenly enough to fill my lungs for the long dive ahead, surprised at how terrestrial and normal it feels as restoration lies dormant, waiting to energize me. I know I am not enough, know that I don’t have to be, long to be used, wash my hands of needing to be loved and adored.

Ideas rise again, tamed by heaven but still too wild for earthen vessels, and I imagine them taking shape as the world bends to their emerging presence. I wonder what my path will be, wonder where it will take me, what will be taken, what will be required, where and how my blood will spill, what gruesome and sacred art will be framed by my sacrifice and become part of God’s special story, ponder what joys await me in sweet fellowship with Jesus as I learn to let his great heart be my strength and life-blood.

For I see now the inky haze of my gethsemane sitting on the path ahead, immovable; and just beyond it, the hill I must spend all my breath on, building your kingdom with, or dying offering the gift.