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Sabbatical Thoughts & Crumbling Sidewalks

And she began to explain in 2nd grade terms what no 8-year old should ever have to explain...something this 42-year old can't find words to explain or make sense of. I walked behind the two, watching my son's innocent world being punctured, and helplessly watching the ground literally and figuratively becoming less stable under his little feet.

Keri and I just returned from a surreal trip “down under” for shrimps on the barbe, beach adventures, petting kangaroos and days walking the beautiful city of Perth, WA. I was blown away by how beautiful and clean the city was, how friendly the people were, and how stinking long the flight was there and back! Double suffering for tall dudes.

The trip had duel purposes: to celebrate the wedding of our dear Amada, and a kidless romantic trip to kick off my sabbatical. A key part of my sabbatical is “ceasing” certain activities that are life-draining and engaging activities that are restorative. This leaves the activity of WRITING a bit up in the air. Sometimes writing fuels and energizes me; other times it drains me. Hence, I’m in limbo on what may or may not appear on this blog this summer. I’m thinking about keeping a private sabbatical journal to record various insights and God-stirrings. I had a few overseas already.

Today, I just wanted to sign off from this blog for the foreseeable future (unless I feel inspired), let the ground of Kingdom Harbor lie fallow for a bit, but share one confession as I do so. I confess my heart is a mess over the tragic murder of a 6-year old boy, Eli Hart, in our small community at the hands of his mother, and the unspeakable horror of the Texas shooting yesterday killing 19 elementary school children and two teachers (last report). Lord, have mercy.

Everything in my Jesus-seeking, pastoral heart wants to speak out and speak into the moment. Yet words are inadequate and I’m supposed to be ceasing from this role for the summer. It goes to show how central to the task of a spiritual shepherd is offering words in hard moments, even if that word is simply a guttural groan or call to solidarity and silent prayer.

I don’t have words. But I join with all the other parents of young children who are trying to figure out how to talk about these horrors with our own children. I joined Isaak’s 2nd class on their walking field trip yesterday to get ice cream and visit the library. An otherwise light hearted outing passed under the cloud of death and sadness, as we passed by a very quiet and respectful protestor in the center of town drawing attention to the tragic death of Eli, the 6-year old mentioned earlier.

My 8-year old was looking at the crumbling pavement under his feet as we walked by the protestor, and as Isaak kicked a piece of loose concrete along said out loud, “What happened?” referring to the pavement of our streets coming undone under his feet. A classmate up to speed on the tragic events (we hadn’t told Isaak yet) began to explain, “A little boy was killed…” Isaak said, no the pavement. What’s wrong with the sidewalk?

Suddenly, when it registered what his classmate started saying, he took his mind off the sidewalk and ran up to her saying, “Wait…what happened?” And she began to explain in 2nd grade terms what no 8-year old should ever have to explain…something this 42-year old can’t find words to explain or make sense of. I walked behind the two, watching my son’s innocent world being punctured, and watching the ground literally and figuratively becoming less stable under his little feet.

The ground is cracking. Our civilization’s foundation is slowly turning to rubble. The firmament that should support little feet is crumbling and we parents are watching our children face a world we never had to live in. It sucks.

But I must stop writing here…for to write further is to violate my sabbath. This is the writing that is NOT life-giving. And this pastor needs to spend some time sealing up the cracks in my own heart and soul, and cleaning up the rubble in my own tired mind, so I can be restored enough to continue shepherding and speaking gospel truth into a very rotten world.

All I can mutter on this sad and gloomy rainy day is:

Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy.

Clinging to the Good Shepherd and Prince of Peace in a violent and wayward world.

“Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he had compassion for them because they were troubled and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”

Matthew 9:36

Dr. Jeremy Berg is the founding and Lead Pastor of MainStreet Covenant Church in Minnetonka Beach, MN, where he has served since 2010. He an Adjunct Professor of Theology at North Central University (Minneapolis) and Professor of Bible & Theology at Solid Rock Discipleship School. Jeremy earned a doctorate in New Testament Context under Dr. Scot McKnight at Northern Seminary. He and his wife, Kjerstin, have three kids, Peter, Isaak and Abigail.

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