Every day I am in Bloomington I see evidence that God has me in the right place. Confirmation of the rightness of this setting for ministry is all around me.
And yet, at the same time, the advent of summer has meant the onset of a pretty deep level of grief. There are a variety of factors to that, I think. A bit further down the road from old friends is certainly a part of it. Another part of it has been discovery, the reality, that I can't throw my gear in the back of the Miata and be at either Koontz Lake or Lake Webster in an hour to water ski. We could bounce over and back during the week and on the weekends. Whether or not I was preaching. So the summer confirms the fact that something has changed.
A colleague and fellow pastor named Paulwatched me go through a pretty profound greiving process when I left New Haven, and he told me he didn't think -and I agreed with him- I could survive another "uprooting." I know that is pretty dramatic language. And I know we all go through levels of grief as we pick up and move to the land the Lord is giving us. I suppose in some ways I "attach" too strongly to people and a place. Maybe a product of being a wandering Aramean as a child. Only a few of us have picked up and moved after a pastoral tenure of 14+ years (actually close to 20) so maybe the length multiplies the level of dis-location.
There's not a thing anyone needs to do or say about all of this. And the quiet sadness of the grief doesn't mean for a minute that I am anything but delighted to be in this place and with the blessed people of The Open Door/First UMC.
I thought, though, I would share two things I read in Christian Century while at the Y today. Carol Zaleski talks about the impact Virgil's Aenid had on C.S. Lewis. The Roman epic shaped his understanding of vocation. Aeneas obeys his calling and in Lewis' translation he says he is being led far over "alien foam." He says, "The mind remains unshaken while the vain tears fall." He speaks of Trojan women caught "Twixt miserable longing for the present land/And the far realms that call them by the fates' command."
In a conversation with Tolkien Lewis talked about the adult work of vocation. It's helpful for me to look at the journey as an opportunity to grow up, to grow deeper into Christ, and to understand that sometimes we are "men with a vocation, men on whom a burden is laid."
Dorothy L. Sayers, after reading the Aenid, said, "The effect is one of immense costliness of a vocation combined with a complete conviction that it is worth it.." Zaleski observes that Lewis understood "the poetry of vocation."
Whatever I am feeling is nothing compared to the challenges and tests in the lives of others. It pales to nothing when compared to the challenges before our friend, Stan Buck, or the losses endured by those living in Alabama, the Sudan, or Syria. But I thought it might be something I could share with friends.
In her book The Long Goodbye: A Memoir, Meghan O'Rourke talks about going through her mother's losing battle with cancer. She writes this: "I kept thinking, 'I just want somewhere to put my grief.' I was imaging a vessel for it: a long, shallow, wooden bowl, irregularly shaped. I had the sense that if I could chant, or rend my clothes...I Could, in effect, create that vessle in the world." But there was no ritual and she says "without ritual, the only way to share a loss was to talk about it."
God is good. I am so blessed. The work Jesus has for me among these blessed people is joy. After worship or a conversation or a meeting I sometimes almost dance down the hall! And, yet, there is always the heart.
The sad heart says the journey is worth it! Maybe you understand.