Session 1c: Soul Care for the Land in Between by Elaine May

I’m Elaine May. I’m really excited to be here, so if you see my hands shake, it’s because I’m an extrovert and I’m in person with all of you, so this is very exciting.

Yeah. March 8, 2020, I preached what became my last sermon at Mayfair Christian Reformed Church. After the service, I took the congregation through a congregational meeting where I laid out what we were going to vote on the following week with regards to a merger with Encounter Church of Kentwood, and answered all the questions related to that.

Thursday, we got sent home. Monday, I developed a fever. The following Monday that fever went to 102, and the doctor said you better quarantine in your own house. I was down with 102 fever for six days. Tylenol did a little bit to bring it down. I went in with my laptop and all these books that I needed to read for my doctorate of ministry, and didn’t touch it at all. I was completely wiped out. I didn’t have much fear about it until my fever broke and I had shortness of breath. Even then doctors were saying, “Don’t come to the emergency room unless you can’t breathe.” I’m like, well, I can breathe, so I guess I’ll just stay here.

That week sent me into the land between. I am studying leadership development. What I knew was that this was going to be a season of development. It began with God saying the Psalm 46 passage. The only word I got from the Lord during that week was, “Just be still and know that I am God. Just be still and know that I am God.”

Many of you in this room prayed for me while I was down and out. Then my hair fell out for six months. Not quite to the extent yours did. It was the land between. The land between is full of confusion. It’s full of disorientation. Like what Andy said, it is mucky and it doesn’t make sense. There are no answers when you want answers. What I can tell you is that it is a very intentional time of development. Chris mentioned the exodus, where God is taking his people into the land between for their development. It’s about their identity as his people. It’s mandatory before they can take possession of the land and live as his people. I think of John 21, Peter on the beach, that’s the land between. Between Easter and Pentecost is the land between. Peter needed that moment with Jesus on the beach. It was hard. He had just denied him. He needed to be restored. He needed reconciliation and he needed to be recommissioned to go love the people Jesus loves.

Luke 24. It’s the land between. They’re leaving Jerusalem and Jesus comes to them and says, “No, I need you to understand something about what happened so that you can go forward.”

Important things happen in the land between. In Acts 1, Jesus says, “Don’t leave this place until I give you what you need to go into the future. You can’t go back to fishing like Peter wanted to. You can’t go back to Galilee, like the folks in Luke 24. You can’t go back. You’ve got to go forward. There’s no going back.” In the land between, when it seems like God isn’t saying anything, God can be incredibly silent in the land between.  Get curious. What do you want me to learn? What do I need so that I can enter into this next phase and be effective for the kingdom. Disciples are learners of Jesus. What do we need to learn? What are the lessons we’ve learned? What have we learned about what didn’t work? What did God teach us in the last year and a half? What are the things that we need to take into the future?

Get curious. To be curious you have to manage the anxiety like Andy was talking about. It’s hard to be curious when you’re anxious. Take times of reflection – this will be a good day for that, reflecting and conversing with others. It’s also a time of just resting and being still and saying, okay, Lord, I know you have something in store for us. What do you need to teach me so that I can walk fully and enter into it?

Now I work for the denomination. And Mayfair will launch this fall on September the 12th as Encounter in Fulton Heights. Jason was part of our journey. We went through the church renewal lab and I now work for Pastor Church Resources. I support women in ministry. It’s the 25th anniversary of ordaining women in the Christian Reformed Church. I have some commemorative pins, if you want one.  It’s been an honor to get to know the women in the trenches who are serving our churches.  For the other 1/2 of my job, I’m writing a course, under the Thriving Congregations grant, thanks to the Lily Foundation, on the essentials of a congregation for thriving.  You can sign up for that too.  We are in the beta phase for piloting that.

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