Way last year, I welcomed a colleague into our pulpit as the first half of a pulpit exchange. She is the fulltime minister of a congregation about 400 miles away from here and was on her way to a gathering in the San Juan islands, so it was very convenient for her to preach for us one Sunday in October.
In return, we arranged that I would go to her church this weekend and preach for her congregation. Unfortunately, once I got home from my Eliot week, I started feeling ill. It began as a scratchy throat, progressed into congestion for a couple of days, and has now settled into a very very sore throat, untameable by even the strongest pain relievers or lozenges. So I am miserable---partly from the sore throat and partly from the need to cancel my weekend 400 miles away.
I hate to let people down. In recompense, I will send her a check for a speaker's fee, so that it feels more fair. But I'm reminded that when you do work like this, you have to make some hard choices. Fortunately, most congregations keep a folder of backup plans for such emergencies. My own congregation manages this sort of thing very well, as it did when my wayward retina forced me to cancel on them.
This isn't as drastic as a detached retina but it brings to mind the same lesson----health sometimes has to trump promises. It just bothers me a lot that this has happened to me twice now this year. I like to think of myself as having excellent health, high energy, and unlimited resources. At age 67, perhaps it's not as true as it once was.