Slowing Down

Dear colleagues in ministry,

I will see you at the Presbytery meeting June 4th but will be slowing down thereafter to take medical leave June 10-28 (prostate surgery cancer and recovery). The Rev. Mark Tammen, General Presbyter of Long Island Presbytery, and the Rev. Harold Delhagen, Synod Executive, have both offered to be available to help the office staff as needed.

Slowing down has not been easy. It seems my accelerator pedal is more readily used than the brake pedal of my life even though I have a hard stop coming up in June. In reflecting on this, I was drawn to what Dr. Richard P. Johnson wrote in a book given to me by an Interim Synod Executive entitled, Body, Mind, Spirit. Tapping the Healing Power Within You.

Healing comes in infinite variety but only two categories: healing sickness and healing illness. As it relates to sickness healing is best described as a “cure,” recovery or relief from a disease. Healing illness refers to making sound or whole, overcoming an undesirable situation. Healing includes your willingness to perceive your illness differently. Healing involves opening our ears to hear the soothing communication of the Holy Spirit, whose message is always wholeness. Healing our illness goes beyond the physical to a higher realm where the will of God resides.

From reading this and looking at my tendency to press the accelerator pedal more than the brake pedal, I am aware of a socially accepted and promoted illness known as “workaholism” - a compulsion to work excessively hard and long hours. It can become addictive and soul-destroying. I can be healed by a prostatectomy, but this other kind of healing goes beyond the physical, as Johnson points out. I confess that your prayers for healing need to go in both directions for me.

The surgeon, and many of you, assure me of recovery. I wonder about the work issues. That requires a different kind of healing, listening to the divine voice. It is not a technical “fix” as much as an adaptive change in habits and practices, uses of time and energy, responding differently to situations in which I find myself, prayer and soulful reflection.

Renewing that right spirit within us (Psalm 51) takes us beyond just these physical bodies of ours.  Even congregational and societal messages and practices can bring illnesses upon many of us that destroy souls, lives, and community. My own prayer closes with these additional words from Dr. Johnson for all:

Healing requires our cooperative consent to the healing power within us. Our tireless internal Healer constantly nudges us toward God…accept the lead of this careful custodian of our welfare.

Robert Foltz-Morrison