Saying Goodbye

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.


Life Line

On Tuesday, in the midst of a pastoral visit, this favorite church member announced that she might be done with this town. She came home from a vacation to discover that this is not where she wants to be. I perked up. Too much. If you know me well, as it turns out she does, you know that I have no poker face. None. What. So. Ever.

As with every other pastoral visit we've shared over the years, she asked how I was. It happens the same way every time. She asks once in the beginning. She asks once in the middle of our conversation when she realizes she's "monopolized all the air time." And once more when our conversation is nearly over. I always dodge the question. She knows I'm doing it. I offer small bits of information but my walls are so high that I don't share all that much. 

This image first appeared here.
Not this time. This time I spilled.  "Well," I said. "It's interesting. I'm compelled by part of your story as it relates to my own." And then, it just came out. Choppy. Awkward. Honest. I'm discerning a move. I'm wondering if its time to do the next thing. 

She said what I would have expected her to say. She referenced her concern about me from the beginning. She was always nervous I wouldn't stay. She didn't think I had a prayer to last here. She knew the track-record of my colleague. There's a pattern that she noticed. She wasn't going to trust me, but she did.

Rather quickly. 

She started to refer to me as her life line -- which obviously made me uncomfortable. And yet, I was. I was the only safe space that she could talk about her mother's illness, her divorce, her children and her shattered relationship with her church (the same one that I serve and try to invite her into). She let me listen to things that she wouldn't let anyone else hear. She trusted me. And, in this choppy, awkward and honest moment, I realized how much this trust meant to me. I realized the indelible mark it has left upon my own hands that I could now trust her as she as trusted me. Yes, it's tricky and far from simple -- but to read these words in her email just now reminded me how important this beloved community is to me:

We’ll not be done with one and the other when geography or polity might suggest otherwise. I’ll be insisting on that.


Wander Lust Again

I went to France. I got the blissful opportunity to return to London -- where I lived for 4 months after college. I am so freakin' lucky. I have wonderful parents who want to give me their miles to satisfy my wanderlust. For some reason, when I blogged about this long ago, I thought wanderlust was two words. It's not. I was wrong. I'm also in a very different place than I was.

While on my journey through Europe -- seeing friends marry, seeing old friends and bastardizing the French language -- I was thinking a lot about my wandering. The fact is: I did buy a house. I did settle in. I did decide to call this place home. And now, it seems that God has something else in mind.  I'm feeling that pull. It hasn't gone away. If anything, it's gotten worse.

While I wandered on planes and trains through Europe, I tried a little bibliotherapy by reading The Geography of Bliss. In this book, the author wanders around the world in search of happiness. It's unclear if he's looking for his own happiness or whether he's more interested in being surprised by other's happiness. It seems he doesn't believe in the possibility of happiness -- as when he comes close to it, he tries to talk around it. He also fails to understand the place of religion in that would-be happiness. However, what surprised me most is the assumption that happiness is always somewhere else. You have to travel to find it. You have to be in another place where you'll find happiness.

That's not where I am. I love this city. I love this state. I love that I can drive 20 minutes to a beautiful beach. I love that fantastic culinary wonders are around the corner. I love that I can drive 20 minutes in the other direction and hike a mountain. I love this place. It is indeed home. I don't really want to leave it -- and so, I'm a little annoyed at God. Still. It hasn't gone away. I wish I could find a way to talk myself into loving the ministry I'm doing, but I'm bored. I love these people. I love them so much that it hurts to think about leaving them, but it seems that it's getting closer to that time when I have to answer God assertively by saying, Here I am Lord. Here I am. Send me. But, I'm not really ready for that. Not yet.