Initially I thought the headline for today should be “Unproductive and Unmotivated” but then switched to “Slow and Slower” as I realized I possessed the desire to write and send this but would never accomplish it by Thursday morning.  Hopefully you will see me as “semi-productive and semi-motivated” at this time.  And, perhaps, as one of my sons suggested, in the future I will eliminate “Thursday” from the major heading, and just call these things “Thirst”!

Long ago I started to recognize that the stages of grief are not just what a person goes through when a loved one dies.  Rather, they are experienced in varying degrees whenever one experiences disappointment.  My definition of disappointment is “when life is not as we expect it should be.”  Death … which we remember, rather than being “natural” – that is, part of God’s created order – is “unnatural” because it is one of the disappointing consequences of sin … is certainly one of the greatest disappointments, but we go through Kubler-Ross’s five stages many other times in our life.  Additionally, I believe Christians are gifted with two additional stages … taking us to the “perfect number seven.”

Those first five stages are 1) denial, 2) anger, 3) bargaining/blaming, 4) depression, and 5) acceptance.  These terms always require a few qualifiers, the first being that one does not neatly progress from one through five.  Rather, they generally keep reappearing in a whirlpool that often springs up out of nowhere.  It is also important to note that anger simply is something that bubbles up from within us, rather than being caused by anything more than our “disappointment.”   Bargaining/blaming can be directed toward others, oneself, or even God.  Depression I define as “an overwhelming sense of sad” that sucks the energy out of a person, leaving them unproductive and unmotivated (there are those words again).  Finally, I explain acceptance to be one saying, “This is not how I want things to be, and if a do-over was an option I would take it, but this is how things are.  It is time for me to re-orient myself and adjust to the new setting.”  Of course, many times after I say this to myself, stages 1-4 rear their ugly faces again.

And then, there are those additional blessings for those who are sealed into God’s promises in Christ Jesus through the words and water of baptism.   You know the promise: “All of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death.  We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.  For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.” (Romans 6.3-5)  Stage six for Christ’s Easter People is “the dawn of new hope” (otherwise known as seeing “light at the end of the tunnel”).  This is followed by “new life” (aka “reconstruction” or “resurrection”).  And, of course, this number 7 takes us back to the story of creation in Genesis 1-2 … and reminds us that “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.  The old has passed away; behold the new has come.” (2 Corinthians 5.17)

Now, what in the world, you may be wondering, does this have to do with “Slow and Slower”?  Good question – and here is my theory.  While I do not view my retirement as one of life’s “disappointments”, I am sensing that some of the emotions – especially those in the second half – are similar … and that my current state of being semi-motivated (aka “Slow and Slower”) is related to stage four.  In other words, I think that I am functioning “Slow and Slower” because I am still sorting out what this retirement thing is all about … accepting that many of the great things of the past are just that – past … recognizing the change in my day-to-day energy needs (or the reduction of each day’s adrenalin dose) … and identifying (and then stepping into) God’s on-going purpose (calling) for my life (stage seven).  With this, it is important for all believers in Christ to remember that what we experience on this earth is always in the realm of penultimate … and that the ultimate comes in our own death and resurrection on the last day.

So, for me, as I go through these “Slow and Slower” days, I recognize how important it is for me keep returning to God’s promises (even when I keep falling asleep while reading) daily – along with meditation and prayer (even as my mind continually wanders).  Sometime – like this week – it takes me longer to get things done (but that’s OK).  There are even days where I seem to get nothing done.  Through it all, God is at work in me – just as he is as leads his people through the grieving process.

In one of my first years in ministry an older gentleman told me, “Church work is slow.”  I think what he really meant was “God’s work in the church often is more clearly seen over the long-term”.  In this regard, picture yourself as a fine wine that is being produced by The Master Vintner.  There are stages in the process that are kind of ugly (have you ever mashed grapes with your feet?) … and times when the product is simply sour.  Patience (that is, acknowledging that daily change is seldom seen) and trust in the vintner allows the fine wine to be produced.

So, for today, I am going to work on turning my impatience (aka semi-productivity and semi-motivation) during these “Slow and Slower” days in a different direction.  That is, toward the light at the end of the tunnel in anticipation of what God has in mind for the future … which, now that I think of it, is what John the Baptizer’s message was all about.  “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 3.2)

“At hand” for two thousand years and counting! … that my friends, in my eye is definitely “Slow and Slower.”

Slow and Slower