Tonight we concluded the majority of the business for the 222nd General Assembly. Tomorrow will be an passing of the budget, of which we have been talking about for days, and closing worship. Unfortunately, due to a change by the airline I will be well on on my way back to Illinois by the time the meeting opens in the morning. Though I am happy to be returning home, I will miss the fellowship of these eight days.
This experience has been much like a mission trip, the emotional upheaval, the exhaustion, the prickliness of being with others for many days in a row, the isolation from family, and the opportunity to gather new knowledge. As with any mission experience there is a bittersweet quality to re-entering normal life. It is sweet to return home, and it is bitter to say goodbye. As with any mission experience there is a sense of disbelief that life is lived in this manner. That disbelief can be about the joy and contentment of a community, and/or the community’s habits that seem to be harmful.
GA filled me with both these kinds of disbelief. I found much joy in talking to other commissioners, in reading the overtures and rationales, in listening to passionate speeches and reports, in watching how groups interacted with each other. I was also filled with disbelief at how easily we could fall into bad habits of not really listening to each other. We all know what this is like because we experience it in our own lives, now imagine that on a large scale of hundreds of people. There were times when we were all confused and exhausted and listening was difficult.
Since I have been on a mission trip or two over the years I recognize that this behavior is common to the group experience. It makes me wonder if we as a whole approached this experience like a mission trip – a chance to go and learn about how God is acting in others, and a chance to share with others how God has acted in your life – if we approached GA in this way, would we recognize that GA is a spiritual experience?
It is late, my brain is tired, and I am headed to the airport soon, but I wanted to be faithful to my commitment to post, so I leave you with this half formed reflection on the power of approaching GA as a spiritual experience, not just a business meeting. There is joy in gathering, in sharing, and in remaining silent, and tonight as I prepare to head east I am mindful of the many ways I saw Christ these eight days and how as tired as I am, I am renewed in my hope for a better world, and a deeper understanding of what it means to belong to God and each other.
Sleep/rise well beloved of God.