Before Christmas we began to think about where we should holiday. We felt we wanted to be nearer to Christchurch because of my brother-in-law's then condition. (He has since died) My wife declared she would like to visit Peel Forest so I google accommodation near there. One of the options was a farm house type place half an hour from Peel Forrest up the Rangitata River Gorge. Without checking exactly where it was we booked it for nine nights. It was only on Thursday that we actually narrowed down exactly where it is. It is away up in the foot hills of the Southern Alps, a long way from civilization, down a long gravel road, half an hour from cell phone coverage... it is isolated sheep station country. There is a short walk to a swimming hole in the river. There are walking tracks and mountain views all around, but it is a long drive on a gravel road to go anywhere. I guess we did not really want somewhere that was that isolated, but we will enjoy it. We will take books to read, we will just blob out, once we get there it will be good. We will recharge our batteries for the year ahead. We used to holiday at an old Farmhouse during our first ministry in NZ. We also lived for a time in a place called Apiti which was an isolated village in the North Island so we will survive.
People assume that you have to withdraw to recharge batteries. There is a place for withdrawal, that is what my walks up the mountain are. Our house is a place of withdrawal, out of town a bit so we are not inundated with visitors. But I also find there is energy in engagement. As I encounter people's lives I am energised to make a difference. I sit and talk at chaplaincies and see people living superficial, selfish lifestyles, getting into relationship and inner messes because of that. Because of these needs I see I have a growing desire to encourage and model the more fulfilling living that I see in Jesus. Reflection on the needs, while I am engaged motivates me to keep going. So there needs to be a balance between engagement and isolation. Engagement prompts useful reflection during periods of isolation I suspect.
Let me suggest another aspect of this dilemma. I recall reading of churchmen in the middle ages discussing such useful stuff as "How many angels can fit on a pin head?" I often get annoyed at fellow clergy being wrapped up in an ecclesiastical and academic world that seems to have little to do with the realities of life. Too much isolation, with an unwillingness to be engaged can mean we get distracted into trivialities. Sometimes these can be trivialities of Church life, of doctrine or of emphasis. When I sit in meetings with ministers and they are talking about the things they talk about, I often wish I could dump them in the mess at the fire station, or have them sit amongst people in the drop-in centre for a while, or ride with ambulance staff, then see if their priorities don't change.
Anyway in a while I'll experience nine days of isolation. I spent $180 on books (A book voucher given me) just in case it rains. It will be like our "Old Farmhouse" days. I'll tell you about those next post.