O boy O boy O boy! I have my new computer. I'm testing my touch-typing skills as I play with it here in the car. We picked it up tonight in LaGrange, which was an experience in itself. I have always made a practice of cleanly leaving everywhere I have ever served, so that it could never be said of me that I got in the way of the new pastor.
It was easy to leave the Salem-Harris Chapel charge; we all always knew that I'd only be there 2 years, until I graduated from Duke. Leaving Trinity was easy, because they made it easy, but I have continued to keep in touch a little here and there with a couple of people. Zion and LaGrange have been a little more difficult for us. We had good, close friends in both churches, and there's a rule (of thumb, at least) that we stay away for at least a year and don't go back without permission from the new pastor. I miss our friends, and it's hard to maintain that friendship when we are unable to or uncomfortable with "intruding" into what is no longer our church, but theirs.
I think this is the hardest part for me of what we do: we work hard to become family, an active part of the church and community, a meaningful part of people's lives, and then we have to say good-bye in a way that feels pretty final. One tradition I will miss this year from Zion is the annual Junior Livestock Show at the county fairgrounds. Zion was a farming church, and as many as half of the participants in any one event came from our church. The youngest kids would start out showing hogs, then goats, and then the more ambitious might show calves. They took such pride in knowing their animals, caring for them, learning about them, grooming and showing them. And let's face it: a corral full of pigs and 5 year olds is just funny. But as much as I love those kids, they aren't mine anymore. I can't go this year. In fact, I can't go at all. I can't go because even if their pastor doesn't mind, they're not "my" kids anymore. They are hers. And I will not do anything that could possibly interfere with that relationship.
That's one cost of what we do: we love people, become a part of their lives, and then have to say good-bye. What I'm learning from this last move is how to maintain some relationships that are mine, not the church's, not the next pastor's. I don't think I've really trusted myself to do that before, and I worry that I might not do it well. But we need to have "normal" relationships and friendships, to keep some of these close relationships we work so hard to form.
It's hard work: when I get to see my scrapbooking buddy from Zion or our friends from LaGrange, I don't ask how things are going in the church for fear I might be tempted to say how I used to or would do something different: my job is to support the new pastor, not create conflict. And I can't go to some of the things I used to really enjoy for the same reason...the easiest thing is to stay away. I'm learning that it's not the best solution. I have Kim (my partner in scrapbooking) to thank for my addition to photography and cropping. Our LaGrange friends helped me get this computer for a better price than I could have managed on my own. And when I need someone to talk to about me, especially in this first year in a new place, it's nice to know there's someone out there who knows me, who knows where I've been, to talk to. And crop with. And eat good Mexican food with.
I guess I'm growing up a little. Even though it's harder to keep these friends than let them go, I want to do the work, to keep the connections, to remember that the world is larger than the little box I'm tempted to create for myself. It's a little like blogging, I guess: I'm finally spiritually growing into someone who can share myself with others, and not be quite so self-protective as I've been in the past. I'm learning to keep some friendships, and to pray for those churches I must leave, and not to "meddle" with them. Okay, so maybe it sounds like I have a peculiar sense of how all this ought to work. Maybe I do. But this is me, who I am, and who I want to be: a really good pastor, and one who doesn't leave problems behind, but always works for the good of the church. I'm learning that it's really less about what I do and more about what I submit to God to do. And that, I think, is what it's all about: trusting God to handle it, more than myself. Tough lesson for someone as self-sufficient as I tend to be.
on another note:
Sign in a tire shop in Kinston tonight: Careful! Holy Ghost Fire is burning here.
Shouldn't the EPA be looking at that as a source of pollution? Tires burn dirty. And what about OSHA? Isn't fire in a tire shop a workplace hazard? And the ACLU....