By Joe LaGuardia
Since moving to Florida over a year ago, I have been reflecting on some aspects of my past: high school, college, my calling, friends with whom I’ve lost contact, and other nostalgic reminiscing. With each memory I seek to “take every thought captive for Christ,” assessing what role the memory plays in my life and how it might shape my life now. I was in Georgia for almost two decades; I moved from Florida where I had lived since childhood. Now I’m back.
Writing about the sacredness of places and upbringing, author and poet Natalie Goldberg notes,
We hear about people who go back to their roots. That is good, but don’t get stuck in the root. There is a branch, the leaf, the flower–all reaching toward the immense sky. We are many things.
My return to Florida has been a return to my roots. Many of these roots, however, have become dormant. Some have died out altogether–time spent with cousins now divorced, going to car shows with the old ’84 Camaro. My “home church” in Pompano Beach is still active but too far to visit when I’m not in the pulpit at First Baptist.
Yet there are branches and leaves and flowers, as Goldberg puts it, that reminds me that there is new growth and new frontiers. The “immense sky” is open to so many new opportunities, but I can’t help but notice that my writing, preaching, and prayers have been caught in a time loop, almost paralyzed by the past in some ways.
I wonder whether this “time loop” is a result of nearing 40 years of age. I have heard of mid-life crises, and though I have no inkling to purchase a Porsche or travel to Europe to find myself, I hear the bells that toll at the end of one’s life a little louder than before. Aches and pains in my back beckon the belfry on the horizon.
I have a long way to go–my congregation would laugh at me if I spoke of age at this point in my life–but my move to Vero Beach has captured me in a time stasis, hanging between my past–what once was–and my future, what God has in store as I continue to plug away at working with a great church to build a great and vibrant ministry that will last, I hope, for centuries.
These reflections were held in bold relief when I awoke from a bizarre nightmare this morning. It was not a normal “pastor’s nightmare,” like the ones in which you start to preach only to have people walk out on you or you show up at church only to realize that you’re in the wrong church. There weren’t any ghosts or ghouls or monsters.
Rather, I was sitting in the home of a parishioner who scolded me for hiding for hours in my office, not doing anything useful. “Every day,” she said, “You sit in your office for two hours, and I don’t know what you do–you just sit there and twiddle your thumbs. Four days a week, eight hours total every week–a whole work day of doing nothing.”
I can’t explain why that particular dream struck me, although I have always taken pride in my vigorous work ethic, but I can tell you that it has to do with time. If I pray and all I think of are memories of times past while failing to cast a vision for what God has in the future, then I am stuck for sure.
“Don’t get stuck,” Goldberg says, like angels who once told the disciples to move things along when the disciples got stuck eyeing the heavens when Jesus ascended (“As they strained to see him rising…” the NLT states in Acts 1:10). Don’t get stuck, move it along, look for new opportunities, new growth, it is all around us and it speaks to God’s beauty and activity in our life today.
For years I have had a guilty pleasure of watching Michael Mann’s 2006 Miami Vice with Jamie Foxx and Colin Farrell. I enjoyed watching it because it shows a slice of life in Florida, to which I wanted to return. I realized yesterday, while sitting on the beach and watching my wife and duaghter search for shells and my son dodge waves, that I no longer wanted to watch the movie. I do not crave Miami Vice anymore because I’m here, I’m home and the flowers are blooming.