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Finding Renewal by "Going to the Garden"

A self-described "type-A" person, Pastor Susan Miller realized God’s next call wasn’t to pastoral ministry; it was to learn how to play.




Pastor Susan Miller
Eagan, Minnesota
March 2016

In October 2014, I resigned my call. I had been an Assistant to the Bishop, and with the election of a new Bishop, the co-terminus nature of my call came into play. When I left my call, I thought I would take a month or two to figure out what was next and then jump back into a new chapter in ministry.

But then something unusual began to stir within me. Every time a new ministry opportunity presented itself, instead of embracing it, the voice within me kept saying, "Go to the garden…"

For me, the garden is a metaphor for playing and enjoying life. This voice that said "go to the garden" was telling me that this "gap" time was a time for me to renew myself and to embrace play. For this type-A achiever, that was a hard lesson. Who was I if my identity was not based in work? Was God really saying to me that playing was more important than ministry? Was God actually saying to me that for this season in my life, playing might actually be ministry?

Since I couldn't quite believe that thought, I took it to my spiritual director. After listening to me for a while, she said it seemed as if God were telling me that my demon was not that I wasn’t completing my "to do" lists. Rather, my demon was my inability to "go to the garden," to appreciate and enjoy the abundance and the blessings that were already part of my life.

I realized that the message I had been hearing for several months was pretty targeted: "Come to me, and I will give you rest … Enter into the joy of your Father." These were the words that kept swirling around in my mind and heart, inviting me in. Maybe I'd better start paying attention to them.

So, I did. I stopped fretting about whether I was doing something worthwhile and stopped worrying about what I would do next. I began to visit the gym, and to play with my grandchildren. I started sitting outside (literally in my garden) for a little while most days to journal and to read. I didn't need to be constantly busy. I needed to be.

This past October, I began a new call. When this opportunity came, I knew it was the right path for me. However, I continue to remember the lesson of the garden: That play and rest are as important as work; indeed, sometimes they ARE ministry!

Susan Miller

This submission describes a personal perspective on an aspect of the ELCA benefit program that may or may not reflect the experience of others.

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