Thursday, April 24, 2014

The goodbye world

Stephen Curtis Chapman wrote a song years ago called "The Great Adventure." The lyrics go in part, "Started out this morning
In the usual way
Chasing thoughts inside my head
Of all I had to do today
Another time around the circle
Try to make it better than the last"

They teach you have to preach, how to teach, how to pray, how to study scriptures, how to deal with tragedy. They teach you how to do everything you could possibly need to be a pastor in the United Methodist Church, with the possible exception of audit -- the Garden of Gethsemane of the UMC where I sweat blood every year (take this budget from me, if it be your will) -- but they don't teach you to be particularly good with that one thing that all itinerant ministers must deal with.

I, of course, am talking about how to say goodbye.

J.M. Barrie said of this, "Never say goodbye because goodbye means going away and going away means forgetting." Course, Barrie said that in a little piece of work called Peter Pan, which of course is about not growing up.

I've had to do this far too often, it seems to me. Two years in Lutcher/Donaldsonville, two years at Napoleon Avenue in New Orleans, four years in Gretna (a satellite community outside of New Orleans, where we might still be except for that witch called Katrina), five years in Lacombe/Fitzgerald (Covington), two years here in Eunice.

We've moved on average every three years. On average. It feels like every thirty minutes.

I'd like to say it gets easier. It does not, this saying goodbye thing.

I'm about to do something I certainly never thought I would. I'm about to quote from the Notebook, by Nicholas Sparks. He writes, "The reason it hurts so much to separate is because our souls are connected. Maybe they always have been and will be. Maybe we've lived a thousand lives before this one and in each of them we've found each other. And maybe each time, we've been forced apart for the same reasons. That means that this goodbye is both a goodbye for the past ten thousand years and a prelude to what will come.”  

The first time I did this, this leaving thing, I sang a tune from Michael W. Smith called Friends that told everyone friends are friends forever if the Lord is Lord of them. Still is true.

Especially for those from those first two churches who have since passed to the great unknown.

There's so much to do and so little time to do it all the while we're still in ministry business in the Eunice office. Estimates. Finding a place to live for the future. Preparing to leave the place we've lived for two years.

And on and on it goes.

Jesus perhaps said the best thing I know about leaving. In the 14th chapter of John's Gospel, he said to the best friends he had on this planet, "Don't be troubled. Trust in God. Trust also in me. My Father's house has room to spare. If that weren't the case, would I have told you that I'm going to prepare a place for you? When I go to prepare a place for you, I will return and take you to be with me so that where I am you will be also."

Preparation is being done.
I'll come get you.
We'll be together again.

I can't make those types of promises. But I can promise, and I do, that I won't forget. Will I return? Not often. Perhaps never. But when I left my home church, Gretna, 15 years ago, I never thought I would work there later. I did.

God does what God wants. I've discovered that when I allow this to happen, I have peace. I am not troubled. I am most trusting.

Peace be with you. Always.

Walt Disney said, "Good bye may seem forever. Farewell is like the end, but in my heart is the memory and there you will always be."

Chapman's song continued, "
And somewhere between the pages
It hit me like a lightning bolt
I saw a big frontier in front of me
And I heard somebody say, "Let's go"
Saddle up your horses
We've got a trail to blaze
Through the wild blue yonder
Of God's amazing grace
Let's follow our Leader
Into the glorious unknown
This is a life like no other
This is the great adventure, yeah"

Isn't that the ticket to God's next great adventure?