"There is an
appointed time for everything.
And there is a time for every event under
A time to give birth, and a time to die;
A time to plant and a time to uproot what is planted."
~ Ecclesiastes, 3:1-2
I had a conversation with my friend, Heather, today and one of the many topics we talked about was change; how people's lives, friendships, and jobs change. How our lives change sometimes solely based on our circumstances; some circumstances that are within our control and some that are not. It is a topic that I have been thinking a lot about lately for many reasons.
Heather and I belong to the same church and we found out in December that our longtime minister is leaving for a position at another church in a nearby town. For many of us, myself included, the news came as a shock. So much so that several times, I have tried to blog about it and just could not. Words seemed inadequate. How do you you describe in a blog the impact that the departure of such an integral member of the community has on that community, nevermind on the church that he leads?
I have, however, been able to gain more perspective about the issue over the past several weeks. While I still view this change, which is about to occur in our church in two and a half weeks, as a loss for me personally and spiritually, I am now also able to recognize that this is one more change in my life that is another season of change for me, my church, and our minister.
Change, whether wanted or unwanted, is an opportunity for growth. It is also an opportunity for unexpected blessings to come into our lives that we never saw coming or might never have occurred otherwise. As I have been thinking about change lately, I keep reflecting back on all the changes that have happened in my life over the past five-six years. I am talking drastic changes. I know the fact that I am starting a new job next week has brought a lot of these thoughts to the forefront of my mind.
I think back to when I worked at my previous job which drained the life out of me, when I was involved in a destructive marriage, was spiritually broken, and overall just miserable. I think how much has changed since then. But yet, it took this significant, life-altering autoimmune illness to be the catalyst for the changes in my life. I left my husband, was forced out of my job due to illness, forced to sell my house, and the list goes on and on. I did not choose to get sick yet because of it, I was forced to make major life changes. Where has it gotten me? Married to the love of life, enjoying the grace of living in a healthy marriage, living in a community that accepts and supports me, publishing a book, enjoying a circle of amazing friends, and about to start a job that I have always wanted to do. It took me going through the most difficult, scary, and uncertain moments of my life to get here.
OK, so what does this all have to do with my minister leaving our church? A lot. Like my illness, his departure, while sad and even heartbreaking at times, is an opportunity for change and growth for both my minister and for us. It is a chance for him to pursue new spiritual directions. It is a chance for the people of my church and community to rediscover each other in new ways. If you told me that I would have thought this back in December, I would have told you that you were crazy. But here's the thing: I have already seen some of the blessings that have come because of this transition. Maybe they are not earth-shattering, but rather, are happening as quiet whispers in the wind. They are there. I see them when I listen to conversations that are happening among the members of my church and I am able to witness the increased emotions and caring. I see the changes as I watch the people of the church come together to formulate a plan for the future of my church. I see more unity.
I see the changes in my husband, who is currently the head deacon of our church. Ironically, I had a conversation with him, two weeks before we got the news about our minister leaving, asking him if he would consider stepping down as head deacon or even as a deacon at all. It was purely selfish motives on my part. For our entire relationship, literally, he has been a deacon at our church; with increased responsibilities and obligations to our church on a weekly, and sometimes on a daily basis. We discussed it and he wouldn't even consider it. He reminded me that the very qualities that I love about him are what makes him a church deacon. For him, it is the way to live his spirituality.
Well, with the news of our minister leaving has come a significant increase in his responsibilities. It has also come with a significant change in our marriage and in him. I see the change in him which comes from assuming more responsibility for the livelihood of our church and its members. To be honest, I didn't realize he could be so organized! I see the change in our marriage as I realize that it is my turn to be the emotionally supportive one, to make sure that I step outside of myself and engage with him in order to be a sounding board. The changes are making us better individuals and a better couple.
Change isn't easy. Trust me, I know. It is scary and anxiety-provoking. But change doesn't always have to be equated solely with struggle, sadness, or fear. Sometimes you just have to be quiet and still enough to recognize the blessings that can come with change, however small they may be.