It is infinitely important to have a good editor. She has the same kind of power as a record producer who takes a good song and turns it into a great record (MP3) that is a beautiful piece of artistic expression that connects with people on an emotional level.
In my first book, An Irreligious Faith, my editor, Erin, put in a note in the sidebar of the manuscript that generated one of those beautiful “ah ha” moments in my mind. I had written about how I was enjoying a more refreshing Sabbath by not going to church than when I was going to church. In particular, I mentioned how during football season, my wife and I would gather at my son and daughter-in-law’s to watch the Kansas City Chiefs, as part of the Chief’s Kingdom diaspora in the Chicago area. Often, there would be other people there and always there was amazing food to share. Her note in the sidebar: “Maybe, that was church.”
Actually, we will be leaving to here is just a few minutes for this week’s game. Thankfully, it’s much easier year to be a Chief’s fan now that we are enjoying a worse to first fairy tale season so far this year. Who knows how will all tun out by the time this book is published.
I used to think very poorly of people like me. Really, I have changed that much! I didn’t understand, appreciate, or respect those people who rushed home from church or skipped it all together because of a stupid game. I regarded it as a sad case of misplaced priorities. They should have known that the church is the most important thing in the world and their religious-like fervor over a stupid game was some sort of pagan flip flop.
As I mentioned, my Sundays as a pastor were exhausting, involving a huge expenditure of physical, mental, and emotional energy. Way back in the day, we also had an evening service on Sunday. So, I had to recuperate from the first service and re-energize for the second one (with a new sermon) in only a few short hours.
My favorite time of the day in those days was when it was all over, when I didn’t need to say something profound, I didn’t need to move people with a prayer, and I didn’t need to listen to their problems. I loved going out to the frozen yogurt shop with friends and just relaxing after I made that final public performance. Even better was coming home and having a late dinner of tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches (a Sunday evening family tradition) and watching TV.
There is one thing that kept me going during those years. I felt that what I was doing was filled with meaning and purpose. But that feeling began to change when I became a spectator and was no longer an actor on stage. Then I experienced what most people experience on a Sunday. I would go to church expecting inspiration, enjoy it, or endure it, do a post game analysis on the way home in the car with my wife, and get on with the day.
A lot of the church services I attended after being a pastor were pretty good. Some were mediocre. But something changed in me. I became discontent being a spectator. I was looking for the church to take it to the next level, to make it real, to take some risks to move toward greater authenticity, but I found a very limited appetite for that among the guarded church leadership.
So, I became more and more frustrated until it became burdensome for me to attend a Sunday church service. Maybe, it was something in the service that set me off, or how I was treated when I offered a suggestion, or knowing that church wasn’t open to change; but instead of being encouraged, I would leave frustrated.
For me church, as I had known it, was no longer working. Sunday was no longer a special day, except it was more frustrating than other days of the week. For me, attending a church service was a total disconnect with the Sabbath principle. It was not restful, refreshing, or reflective. I had to find a new way to enjoy a Sabbath.