Transitions

Last Thursday, my wife and I took our middle child two hours away … and left her there. It was the first time we had done something so drastic, but also so inevitable. For we took my daughter to college … and then came home without her.

Honestly, I was surprised at how well I handled it. I was pleased at how smoothly things went (well, except for the long line to drop off her stuff at the dorm). But even that was painless, with all the friendly faces that were there to help.

After everything was in the room (though hardly in its place), we dashed off for lunch before we said goodbye. Our farewell hugs were long and full of longing, but then it was time for her to go her way. And she did. And so did we.

As we headed home, I was glad that the day went so well. Not much stress, and not as much emotion as I expected. All in all, I’d give myself an “A-” for how I handled things.

But then we got home. And something about being home made it hit home. Being in the house with only 1/3 of my children proceeded to shatter the “I’m good” feeling I had felt all day. If the process of dropping-off was easier than I expected, the process of arriving-back was harder than I could have anticipated.

Emotions are a funny thing. They are a vital part of life, but they are so hard to predict. What seems simple sometimes hits hard. What seems signficant sometimes goes off without a hitch. But one thing is certain: when emotions do surface, they indicate not just the feeling of the moment; they also reflect something deeper down coming out.

I think about all of this not simply because of the transition my daughter faces as she begins college; I think about it myself as I transition from my current ministry. As I announced Sunday to the folks at Fern Creek Christian, I believe it is time for a change. For me. For the church. For what God wants to do through this congregation. And so, as of August 27, I will conclude my ministry at Fern Creek.

This church has been my family’s home for nearly 20 years. It’s been where I’ve pursued my career for 16 years, but now it’s time to start a new chapter. And I’m learning that saying goodbye is hard. But not always in the ways I expect.

I find that, just like taking my daughter to college, it’s not the obvious places where emotion reaches up and grabs me. It’s in a random thought, or a song that brings a thought to mind. It’s in a conversation with someone. It’s in the anticipation of what’s to come.

But even though emotions are challenging, and sometimes not welcome, they are necessary. For what I feel reveals something about what is going on inside of me. And what I feel tells me something about what matters. If I felt nothing, it might be a sign that I’m not fully measuring the weight of what I’m facing. Or that I’m simply leaving a job — as opposed to a calling. Instead, the feelings I face remind me that I love my church, and feel incredibly blessed to have done what I’ve done.

Let me put it this way: If leaving isn’t hard, then was I ever really, fully here

But I was. And I am a better man, and a better follower of Jesus, because of it. So, thank you, Fern Creek family, for 20 life-changing years. And even as we say ‘goodbye’, we can do so confident that God has more in store for us — in this age, and in the age to come.

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College Visits & the Big Questions of Life

I’m writing this week’s blog entry from the rolling hills of Wilmore, Kentucky. I’m here with my daughter, who is knee-deep (or, maybe, neck-deep) in the process of considering where she wants to go to college next year, and what she wants to study. Today’s college visit has brought us to Asbury University in Wilmore.

It’s a tough choice for a high school senior, deciding where to go and what to study. (Heck, it’s not easy for us parents, either.) With your whole life ahead of you, it’s hard to answer some really big questions at the young age of 18. So, who knows where she will end up – or what she will study. Big questions, with answers still to come.

But, as big as those questions are, I think they are less important than an even bigger one. See, there’s the What should I be? question, and then there’s the What should I BE? question. The first asks questions about job titles and employers and how I want to make money. The second asks questions of identity and purpose and mission. The first can tell me what I am doing; the second tells me why.

God cares about the first question, for sure. But I think God cares more about the second. Where my daughter goes to school, the degree she pursues, and the place she will ultimately work – those matter. It’s just that the second question matters more.

The most important thing I can do for my kids is not: get them into a good college or career. The most important thing I can do for my kids is help them know who they are. If they know that, they will be able to choose – with joy and purpose – how to answer question #1. Giving my kids a sense of identity (I am a follower of Jesus) and purpose (I choose to love God, & love others) will then lead them to live a life on mission. And mission can be lived out in all kinds of places, in all kinds of careers, with all kinds of job titles.

So, Ruthie: Keep learning. And exploring. And dreaming. But most of all, keep listening: To the direction of God, as He calls you by name. And reminds you who you are, and who you are called to be.

And this postscript: If you’re open to exploring how God might use you where you are, consider spending some time at this year’s ICOM (International Conference on Missions). It meets in Lexington, Kentucky, Nov 17-20, and is geared to help ALL kinds of people from ALL walks of life explore ways God wants to use them (read: you) to follow Jesus, and help others do the same. Learn more at theicom.org.