Today I am packing the books in my office. And it has finally hit me. What just happened? What is going to happen? And what am I going to do with all these books?
For those who don’t know. The short summery of my recent life is this:
- July 2008 – July 2015 – For 7 years I served as lead pastor of New Beginnings Church. These years could be written into a love story of pastor and people. A book with a few turbulent chapters but many terrific plot-lines. Like every good story, the beauty of our story is found in the grace flowing between the pages. These 7 years have been good.
- July – August 2015 – New Beginnings Church provided an 8 week sabbatical for our family. It was needed, but we were unaware of what was about to happen within us. I struggle to find weighty-enough words of gratitude for this gift. Life-changing is cliche. But in this case, absolutely true. It was in the midst of the gift of sabbath that our family was awakened to the beauty of life and I was awakened by dreams and words-from-elsewhere (someday I will share these dreams and the words given to me in sessions of spiritual direction with Walter Brueggemann). I realize it may sound silly, but within the gift of sabbatical rest…we found a new kind of life that we must pursue. A life of freedom and grace. A life of appreciation and joy. A life of beauty and rest.
- September 2015 – I spent the month of September seeking to discern and respond to what was happening within me and around me.
- October 1st 2015 – I spoke to our church board, requesting release from my salary and pastoral position.
- October 31st 2015 – I served my last day as lead pastor of New Beginnings Church. Unintentionally, this was also Reformation Day. Perhaps it is the beginning of my own re-formation.
For the past 20 years I have pursued and lived in a calling to pastoral ministry. But it seems this ministry journey is now taking a new path.
“But why? And what now?” I have been asked numerous times. And in the middle of many nights, I too have asked those same questions. And we don’t have a definitive response. Our most truthful response is “because this is what we prayerfully sense is best for the congregation and our own family.”
I could easily talk about how the gift of financial relief will bless the future of New Beginnings. But this will not be accomplished merely by the temporary relief from obligation to a pastor’s salary, it will require challenging others to also join in the act of sacrificial giving. I pray it will be so.
I could talk at length about how this decision will help refocus the church upon discipleship as they are now charged with the task of re-organizing pastoral leadership and direction. I pray it will be so.
But mainly, this decision was born within our family conversations as we returned from sabbatical with renewed vision for the kind of simple and shared life we desire in the formation of our family. And as time has clarified our discernment, we realize that there must be changes in our lives in order to faithfully pursue God’s calling. Releasing our pastoral role was the first step in this pursuit.
So, what am I going to do with all these books? I’ll keep reading them. I’ll keep adding more to the shelf. We will continue to pursue what it means to live faithfully in these days. We will embrace ourselves as targets of God’s grace, rest non-anxiously, and pursue joy.
But for now, I’ve got some boxes to fill.