We can’t do this again!

“We can’t do this again! We can’t!” And yet, here we were, doing it again.

It was the same old pattern. The meeting began with great connection, vision, dreaming and energy. But after the lunch break, as the conversation turned to plans on what to do next, all that energy we’d experienced fled the room.

We turned to making long to-do lists, agonizing over all we had to do, remembering everything that we’d once tried that hadn’t worked. Hopelessness and despair descended like thick fog over our morning mountain top of clarity and excitement.

It had happened to us before – one, three, five – too many times. And this time, we were headed that same way again until someone interrupted our pattern and said, “Stop. We have to stop. We can’t do this one more time.”

For almost the past two years I have had the privilege of serving as Moderator of the Pacific Northwest Conference of the United Church of Christ. My term ends on April 28 at our Annual Meeting. And yes, we have a great new moderator waiting in the wings – Wendy Blight! It has been a gift to team with Wendy, our Conference Minister Mike Denton, and Minister of Church Vitality Courtney Stange-Tregear, as we have helped lead our board of directors into leading into the new. After a year of coming up against some familiar barriers, something began to happen. And then, we returned to our familiar patterns.

But on that day, last month, we did something different. We stopped. We put down our to-do lists, raised our heads from our hands, unclenched our fists, and got curious about what we were doing. We talked about our fears. We acknowledged that as a board we had a lot invested in our time, energy, histories in holding this work together and keeping it going. We remembered however that our call wasn’t to keep things going as they’d always been, but to do things differently, to lead into change. We wondered if we kept falling back into our familiar pattern of stuck and despair, so that nothing needed to change.

My experience at the meeting made me wonder what patterns I might be invited to interrupt today. I mean, when we find ourselves falling back into the “same old same old”, what if we stopped and acknowledged that we were stuck again in a life-draining way. What if instead of pushing through it, we got curious about what was happening? What if we tried doing something differently?

The meeting that day, ended not with us fleeing the room exhausted and weary, as we had done so many times before — but looking around at each other with delight and giving ourselves a round of applause. Instead of a long list of things to do, and not sure who was going to do it, we came out with just a couple of items that a few folks gladly took on.

If the season of Lent might be an opportunity to practice some new ways of being, what pattern might you be invited to interrupt today?

How might you pause and reflect on the way things always are — to make room for the new that might possibly be?

What would it take for your day to end with applause?