I used to feel like I had something to say. I used to think my voice mattered. I used to stand in a place of honor every Sunday and recount what I had studied and measured from the week before thinking that it was important enough to impact the lives of those listening. I used to think my words mattered. But then two years ago that all changed.
Two years ago on Ash Wednesday I cancelled myself. Not literally. Anyone who follows me on social media knows I never really shut up…much to my detriment. But for a season, my vocation in the church got cancelled. It wasn’t entirely voluntarily, but to have continued to serve in the capacity in which I did I would have had to deny who I was and who I was becoming. So I took a piece of paper that validated my vocation and I handed it back in. And I stopped. I stopped teaching in that capacity. I stopped preaching. I haven’t done a wedding, a baptism, a funeral or served communion since. It kind of sucks to be honest. The worst part about it though….? No one really seemed to care all that much. For me, all I had known and all of who I was was suddenly stripped away. For everyone else? There will be another voice to come along and take my place. I don’t say that to guilt trip anyone or anything, but to illustrate the image of my importance was greatly exxagerated.
So here I am on Ash Wednesday two years later commiserating about that dark period in my life about to enter into the season of darkness prior to resurrection. And it’s actually quite fitting. When I used to get to impose ashes on this holy day I would say to the participants, “Remember mortal that you are dust, and to dust you will return.” It really is a heavy thing to try to come to grips with your mortality. But I think this is something we have all been doing for the last two years. Nothing like a global pandemic to remind us of our insignificance in the face of time and history. And yet, you and I both have something to say. Didn’t see that coming, did you?
What I mean is this. I may not have something to say to a church each Sunday.* We may not have words of significance to write to a mass audience that will forever make them question the decisions they are currently making in their lives. We may not be of service to an organization in hopes that our voice will continue to help them make the changes they need to make to serve everyone with equity and love. But we all talk to someone. And those words matter so much. In fact, it might just be those little conversations that live on past our mortal selves. Our legacies are a weird thing to think about. And yes, there are those you know and come into contact with who will do incredible things that will undoubtedly be recorded in some history book somewhere. But most of us will be remembered by those we spoke to in the smallest venues and settings. And those words will mean more and live on longer than we can possibly imagine.
So maybe I do have something to say. But it’s not what I used to think it needed to be.
*I actually get to teach a class in a church for the first time in 3 years this Sunday thanks to my wonderful family at St. Ann’s Nashville