To be sure, we don’t know from experience what you are entering. We do know about change and you are about to experience one of the biggest changes in your life.
Emotions run high in times of change. Many of them the result of grief, something often overlooked as we forget grief comes with any loss.
You will grieve the place you’ve lived for 4 years. The place you came to as a broken, searching man. Near hopeless you walked through the doors. Not in your wildest imagination could you see becoming employed with us and then, surprise of all surprises!, God has called you to be an ordained minister of his grace.
You are going through the journey of lasts. Last softball game, last retreat, last youth night. These times that have been ordinary days in your life suddenly hold a title and their importance hits deep in your heart. They should. You have poured yourself out for others and emotions are the result of that pouring.
There are more lasts to come and the task of handing off what was yours to another. A reminder that what is ours was never ours but always His.
You’ve made friends and built relationships. You’ve gone deeper in life than you ever thought you would. This doesn’t come without tears, pain and struggle. You are also enjoying the rewards which are peace, serenity and a certainty that you are loved.
Some of these friendships will span miles and years but most will change and fade in the rearview mirror. The lessons they’ve brought and memories will be cherished. Get those photos off your camera roll and fill up boxes of these people and events because there will be days you need these visual reminders. They will be your affirmation that you have walked the right path and will help guide your future.
Goodbyes are hard. I have never figured out how to say them with any sort of depth. I’m not alone in this. It seems common throughout our denomination. A group that loves to host events for everyone and has official Sundays called “Farewell Sunday” and all we can do is sit through them with feigned smiles while people we never really got along with say nice things about someone who sounds a little like us.
So what can I tell you about that? I can tell you to do it your way. Hug longer those you love and smile politely to those who showed you how not to be. Do it your way. It’s your time anyway, we just tend to forget that.
People are going to ask a lot from you these last weeks. They will want you to share your story and do it in 7 minutes or less. And in that time they will expect you to inspire the whole group who has gathered to hear someone else. Get use to it. There will be plenty more of those in the years ahead. Never forget God uses the ways of the foolish to confound the wise 😉
The best thing we can tell you is what you already know: your life isn’t yours but it is God’s. That means it will be hard and challenging, painful and uncertain.
It also means the rewards will be amazing and miracles will surround you in disguises you may not initially recognize.
They will come in the forms of church members who are too grumpy but the first ones to cook food for you when you are sick.
It will be the teenager who is a bit slow and the music instructors at camp ask you not to send him back because he just can’t get it. But he calls you even when you’ve moved states away because you made a difference in his life when he needed to know what a father was.
These small moments will be enough because you will know they are really the big moments when God’s grace reaches through the biggest hurts and reminds you again, you are loved.
When we say goodbye to you it will be too little. Remember they are just words. And words that fail to say what is in the heart.
You are one of the miracles. You have encouraged and instructed us with your devotion, intention, integrity, character, honesty, willingness, energy, heart, caring, compassion, dedication, and vulnerability. We don’t expect you being in another state will change the impact you have on our lives. We look to learn even more from you and we thank God for the opportunity he gives us.
Our figurative door will continue to be open to you. You’ll be getting one of those smart phones, which means your texts will show up on ALL of my devices. (Maybe I shouldn’t have told you that.)
You have a collective family who will be praying for you, encouraging you and probably still harassing you. It’s what we do to people we love and we love you Gavin. We do.