I moved a lot as a kid. I was never in the same home for more than 5 years at a time until I turned 40, just last year. You’d think transition would be a skill one perfects through repetition, like practicing wheelies on a bike, skateboard kick-flips or throwing to second base first for that routine double-play, but it’s not something to perfect… or even become good at.
I think of it more like that butterfly feeling you get in the pit of your stomach before going up to speak or sing on stage, that moment of release on the zip line or rappelling backwards off of a formidable cliff face. It’s awkward no matter how many times one does it. I never met a military kid or missionary kid who enjoyed transitioning every 18 months. It’s hard on a kid, and difficult for adults too.
So, our lead pastor took another call and is leaving tomorrow. He speaks his last sermon in the morning and we have a farewell celebration after church. It’s difficult for me and for our church, even though we’re not the ones moving away this time. These are some things to remember in transition:
- Recognize your emotions, good or bad, they are real.
I used to apologize for getting emotional in public, or in a meeting. My pastor has guided me in expressing emotions honestly and giving credit to God for designing me this way. It’s never something to deny or shove down into your heart. Emotions are a gift from God for moments in time, where words are hard to come by. I have tears running down my face as I write this, thinking of the loss I feel in my pastor moving on. It is a harsh reality for me to let go of the man who has shaped my ‘best years’ in ministry so far and has become my friend and mentor in the process. Almost 7 years with one pastor is a record for me, and it’s a sad season as I grieve that God called my pastor to move out of state.
- Make the most of ‘normal’ as you see it.
God’s call on your life may or may not be to live out a “rock star” lifestyle. Maybe you have been called into a position of status, or you may have more facebook friends than the average person, but you’re still normal. Maybe, like the rest of us, you’re just a person trying to figure out how to balance life, ministry, marriage, kids, and school. In fact, that’s who we all are, anyway. God has a terrific calling for us to live His Upside-down Kingdom perspective within our very normal world of alarm clocks, driving kids to school, baseball practice, ballet, the mall and banana pancakes on the weekends. I think for 6 months now, since knowing about our pastor’s transition, I’ve been jealous. Yep, jealous that God didn’t call me to move somewhere and get to start over again with a clean slate. Jealous that I’m not the one getting the farewell fanfare and gift bags in my office. But the longer I process this change, the more I see that God has a plan for me and for you, not like any plan for any other person you encounter. My jealousy comes from the sinful side of my near-sighted perspective in wanting things my way. I was always the kid moving, getting to start over, getting away from normal. God has given us the gift of normal in every situation, and it’s our task to find Christ in the common life and shine the greatest glory on Jesus as we hit the alarm snooze or re-fuel the tank for more carpools.
- The “Missional lifestyle” was God’s idea.
I don’t recall that moving was ever my choice as a kid. I remember dad saying many times when he’d come home from work, “OK kids, we get to move again. It’s time to start saying goodbye to friends this week, and pack your things.” It reminds me of God’s Missional lifestyle all through the scriptures. Beginning with Adam and Eve’s unwanted move out of Paradise, Noah’s float out of town, Abraham’s call to “leave your father and mother and go where I (God) tell you, Moses’ resistant whining near the burning bush, Joshua’s battalion of armies taking over cities for God as they wandered, Jonah’s plunge into darkness, Mary & Joseph’s escape into Egypt and Jesus’ himself submitting to the Father’s plan for Jesus immanent suffering and death. God isn’t finished with His mission. His Son, raised from the dead, ushered God’s Kingdom into purpose, and transitioned the Holy Spirit as our ever present guide in time of trouble and hardship. The Holy Spirit of God is the proverbial Missionary living in and among us as we journey this road to Christ in the common. We journey as the bride of Christ, the lovely Church of God’s people, not to a location on this planet, but to a destination with God one day – to the great City of God and His people, gathered for eternity. Transition was God’s idea.
Even though transition hurts and emotions run high/low, you’ll make it through this change. God promises each one of us that “He is faithful and will never leave us or forsake us,” … no matter where God takes us in this life. One of the most memorable remarks I received from my pastor in an Annual Spring Performance and Inspirational Review Experience (ASPIRE is what I used to call it), came from the question he posed to me near the end of our hour together. He said, “How do you measure success in ministry?” I fumbled through some responses about numbers of kids coming to youth group, or being good at speaking, or having less hate mail this year than last, and he just listened and smiled. I asked him back, “Well, how do you measure success in ministry?” He confidently said one word, “Faithfulness.” He went on to tell me that God didn’t call anyone to grow a church to a significant size, or to do miracles near a hospital bedside, or even become the most twitter-followed pastor in the world, as if any of that matters to God. My pastor said, “God called everyone to be faithful, and if you can say that you walked with God and grew closer to His heart at the end of any given day, then you have remained faithful to His call in your life. Ministry numbers come and go, people change, you’ll get plenty of hate mail, but ignoring all that, if you remain faithful to Jesus, He will be the success in your ministry.”
“Transition is easy,” what a lie. Moving and change is never easy, I can be the first to tell you so. It even hurts to be the one staying and seeing my lead pastor leave. As I host the farewell celebration tomorrow for our pastor, I have to remember a few things: emotions are real, this is a normal part of life, and God’s Missional idea comes with a promise that Jesus will never leave us, nor forsake us. I’m believing that promise tonight.