Two couples recently resigned from the Missions Team at our church. They have been pillars in the missions effort here. 

The young pastor (40 or so), and his associate (55 about years-of-age) had to be feeling the pressure of still achieving as much, of finding replacements, and of carrying on as though they were unwounded.

In the providence of God, Marilyn and I went to Holland State Park and–unknown to us–put out our beach blanket out a short distance from this young senior pastor and some of his friends. We did not see them. But one of the members of the congregation noticed us and came over to say hello.  In a few minutes I wandered over to greet them. 

The pastor noticed I was reading something and asked what I was reading.

I was reading a Tom Clancy book. Clancy’s characters are testosterone-rich,  macho, military, adventure types. The hero is Jack Ryan. He’s a take-no-guff-from-anyone . . . rough and tumble . . . a find-the-bad-guys-and-bring-them-to-justice world-wide policeman. Bullets-bounce-off-Jack (it is wonderful).  Jack can get himself out of any jam, fight his way out of every situation, and he always wins – just what all us guys want to be.  Fantasy.

Jack is pretty moral, but there are some sleazy situations. So I enjoy Jack’s adventures, while ignoring the honey traps.

Still, I was not eager to tell the pastor what I was reading.  But I was caught! 

On the Sunday the Missions Team met to discuss these two resignations, I made a lunch appointment to both pastors to commiserate about the departures, sure they must be hurting.   

I had decided to face the Clancy embarrassment, so I brought the book in my picnic basket. At lunch I asked them what they did to relax.  The young senior pastor said he runs or roasts coffee (he is a real coffee aficionado). This young pastor is preaching well because he is working 60 or 70 hours a week. He has to be tired.  The departure of two couples has to be discouraging. To relax the associate pastor field tests guns, knives and field equipment and writes reviews for a sporting magazine. Because he is a dignified, reserved, gentle, polite man, I was surprised at his hobby. So my reader friend, what do you do to relax? Run?  Woodworking?  Cooking?  Reading?  We all need something that helps us unstring our bow. Something that takes the pressure off and helps us relax.

I read. For years my reading was history and biography because I was preaching every Sunday and the pulpit has a ferocious appetite for fresh material. I was too busy to read anything light (like novels; us guys deal in reality, not fiction! Uh-ra!). Life was too serious for any fluff. 

But about ten years ago, I “discovered” novels which became a vacation for my head. Reading transports me from where I am (the office, responsibility, deadlines called Sundays; administration) into another time and place.  As I read Jack, all of a sudden I’m Jack, not having to be patient; not having to wait for anything, always finding a way to achieve my goal. The board agrees with me.  I am dashing and debonair and everyone follows me and believes in me. Fantasy. Twenty minutes later, I put the book down, and return to my work, refreshed by having been away a few minutes.

I took the Clancy book out of the basket and admitted to them, “This is my vacation for my head.” Then I rehearsed for them about being asked what I was reading on the beach. When I put the book down on our table, bringing it close enough to the associate pastor that he could read the title he said, “I’ve read that book.”

So we all had a good laugh when I talked through with them getting “caught” on the beach with a Clancy book . . . relaxing.