Moving, Part 4
Leaving our church has been a loss, and with loss comes grief. I believe firmly that these three months, however disconcerting and discomforting they’ve been in the search for what’s next, have given us space to grieve. We would not have had this had we immediately transitioned to another ministry. For this, I am most grateful.
Jamie and I have laid awake at night talking about who we miss, what we wish we could return to, and how moving far away will mean we won’t be able to see many of our friends again. The grief comes in unexpected forms. Some days, our children will break down crying for no apparent reason. We ask all the normal questions: Did you hurt yourself? What did [your sibling] do to you? What happened? The first time it happened, I was so at a loss for why our oldest was sobbing—I had no clue she was grieving, too.
And there is almost nothing we can do to ease the pain and loss our kids feel. FaceTime is the best salve we have. But it’s a BandAid approach at best. The screen goes dark, friends, disappear and continue their lives in Michigan, without us, and we, without them.
My grief bubbles over into anger some days. Being the pastor and the one who is “responsible” for us leaving, it is easy to make this all about me. My fault. My decision to leave. My driving the minivan across the country. How easily I forget that God called us and we obeyed. It is no more my fault than His (as if blaming God was logical). There is a small sense of peace in that, with simultaneous frustration in not having anyone to blame. Grief wants a cause.
Our grief is largely out-shadowed by our joy, though. We have reason to rejoice because we know that God is going ahead of us, that He knew the journey we would be on, that there is an ending. There is a place for us, and it will be sweet when we are given knowledge of it.
And so you’re not mistaken, most days are full of joy and peace, the fruit of the Spirit who is at work in us. We rejoice in the homeschooling and extended time we have with our kids. We get to teach Brennan how to read. We get to see Isabelle come alive learning about God’s creation in science and how to multiply and divide in math. We got to be fully present during Maryn’s recovery from her broken leg.
This kind of presence with ourselves is something we all crave. We were just as guilty as any other family of living under the same roof while being overextended, harried, and absent from one another while we were in ministry. We know our friends in Michigan experience this, too. It is a societal sin. God has given us a gift of presence, just like He will give all of us a gift of His presence at His appearing, His second coming. There will be no more grief on that day.
And we rejoice in the unknown. I think of Mary, who was told by the angel that she would bear God’s Son. She did not know how God would accomplish His will, only that He would. She faced shame, ostracizing from her friends, and grief over those losses. Yet she praised God! “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant” (Luke 1:46b-48a).
Grief. Joy. The road of faith is not smoothly paved. It is a Michigan dirt road, and we rejoice that we get to be on it.