“. . . he has said, ‘I will never leave you or abandon you.’” — Hebrews 13:5 (CEB)
This morning, while enjoying our morning coffee together, Caroline made the observation that she’s currently experiencing grief on account of matters related to her work. Being familiar with her work situation, it made perfect sense to me.
This got me thinking about my own work situation. And as I sat there listening to her, it occurred to me that I’m in a very similar place – I’m pretty sure what I’ve been feeling these past few weeks, but especially more so lately, is grief. With that realization, things began to make sense. For the past week or so my head has been in a fog; focusing on my work has been challenging. It feels like I’ve been stuck in neutral and haven’t been able to accomplish much.
As I sat there thinking about this, I began to see the reason behind this apparent stuckness. I mentioned in last week’s Tidings that I’ve been so focused on responding to the coronavirus issue that I pretty much put out of my mind my upcoming move to Port Huron. What dawned on me is this: for the past 8 weeks I’ve had my feet in two worlds, the world of doing ministry in Adrian and the world of preparing for a new ministry elsewhere. In essence, life has been pulling in two opposite directions, and when you’re pulled in opposite directions, you don’t go anywhere. Thus, my stuckness.
So, here it is. I’m grieving. I’m grieving that I’m leaving you all, a people I’ve grown to love, trust, and respect. I’m grieving that I’m leaving a staff I love and with whom I look forward to coming in every day and working alongside. And because leaving here feels like I’m turning my back on you, I’ve resisted going down this path. But now that there’s really no other option but to walk this path, I’m grieving.
Fortunately, your well-being doesn’t depend upon my presence — thank God! Hebrews 13:5 reminds us of a very important truth. God will never leave us or abandon us. In fact, because other people will leave us (even for good or justifiable reasons), God made sure we were given a permanent record of his promise to never leave us. In addition to Hebrews 13:5, Psalm 27:10 says the same thing. “Even if my father and mother abandon me, the Lord will hold me close.”
Isaiah made the same point when he shared with his hurting people a word of encouragement which came directly from God:
[My people] say, “The Lord has deserted us; the Lord has forgotten us.” Never! Can a mother forget her nursing child? Can she feel no love for the child she has borne? But even if that were possible, I would not forget you! See, I have written your name on the palms of my hands (Isaiah 49:14-16).
In my remaining weeks with you my own promise is to not stop loving you, and to continue to stand alongside you as we move through this time of transition. The fact is, though I am leaving, someone else will soon be arriving. In the Rev. Eric Stone God has provided unbroken pastoral leadership and care. Of this, I am sure: in time, you will grow to love and trust him, as he will of you. So even as we grieve, we can also give thanks to God for all he has done and is now doing for the well-being of Adrian First United Methodist Church.