I've always thought that I know how to say goodbye. After all, it's part of grief and I know quite a lot about grief -- but as I search for wisdom on how to say goodbye to a congregation you've loved, I find that I don't have a clue. This goodbye is on my terms. I'm more than aware of how God is calling me toward the next thing. I don't know what that next thing is. Not exactly. That's the hard part. I know where I want to go. I know that there is a change that needs to happen, but it's a change that only I feel.
The congregation I serve still makes those biting comments about my staying forever. They don't hear my reminder that nothing is forever. They've embraced me. They love me. It's hard to leave that comfort. And yet, I know that there's something else happening. In grief, when someone is dying, everyone knows. It doesn't matter how thick the denial is. Every party involved knows that the relationship that has been is coming to a determined end. Not here. In this transition, it's my secret. It's my truth to share. Carefully.
So, I'm searching the internet for that wisdom about how to leave. I'm wondering how on God's green earth a clergy person asks for recommendations in a discreet way that doesn't explode with the parking lot conversations of which my congregation is rather famous. I'm wondering how you tell that story of God calling you to the next thing without hurting feelings and betraying the trust that will need to endure through the months of a search. I know that I have to get clear on those things that I am called to next. I'm doing that. I'm reading. I'm painting. I'm praying. I'm journaling. I'm finding those things to be clearer. And yet, the last time I discerned where God was calling me, it wasn't a call against anything else. It wasn't a rejection but a possibility. I'm trying to find that same space now as I affirm God's possibility while leaving behind this chapter of my first call. Honestly, it's not really working.
I've told friends that I'm uncomfortable in my own skin. They've misunderstood. I'm not rejecting my life in this beautiful seaside town. I love it here -- but I know that I can't stay here and live the life that God is calling me toward. Trust me. If I could do both, I would stay in my beautiful condo with the comfort my fabulous friends. But, the truth is: my call to live as a follower of Christ needs more. So much more. It's hard not to feel uncomfortable. That's what I feel like when I'm wrestling with my own angels. It's painful. It's frustrating. It feels endless but it's important work to know where God is calling me next. I just wish She'd speak a little plainer. That'd be really sweet.