Tuesday, June 10, 2008
Smiling Because It Happened
I remember the day we moved Steven down to Auburn. It was a beautiful day. The skies were blue, the air was warm but clear, and there was an almost tangible feeling of excitement. Everywhere we looked, parents were pulling up with cars loaded with all the things they believed their child needed—books, linens, refrigerators, clothes, bikes, coffee makers, laundry detergent—all the accoutrements of college life. And you could tell that, like me, the parents were excited not only for their beloved child but also because they remembered the joy, excitement, and fear of the day they moved to college.
Friends kept asking how I was going to take moving him into a dorm room, hugging him, and then leaving him. Here was my first born leaving the nest. And he was leaving. I knew that! Since he was in the band, there would be no weekly trips home because he was homesick. Because I have regular Sunday responsibilities, there would be no weekly trips supposedly to see Auburn play but really to check up on him. I knew I would probably not see him but once or twice between that August day and Thanksgiving.
I remember helping him unload his boxes. We placed things on the shelves, clothes in the closets, plugged in the frig, and made a wild last minute Wal-mart run for a few items we thought he needed. I specifically remember one box that we opened. On top of the box, I found a few items that gave me great hope: a Bible, a devotional for College students written by Tony Campolo and Will Willimon, and an AU baseball hat with a Kerry/Edwards pin. Obviously, we had done something right!
Then we finished unpacking and the time came to leave.
It wasn’t easy. Some thought I would cry. I thought I would cry.
But I didn’t (although his dad did).
He was so ready. This was his time. And I was at that moment more excited about what lay before him then what was behind us.
Later I cried.
I have confessed (and confessed often) that I don’t like change. I hate packing. I hate unpacking. I hate leaving folks I’ve come to know and love. I’m scared of meeting new people (what if they don’t like me?). I hate sorting through the flotsam of life and deciding what is valuable enough to take with me and what I must leave behind. I’m afraid that I am all too easily replaced or not replaceable (what if it really is my job to keep the world on track?).
The truth is that every place God has sent me has made an indelible mark on me. The people hold a special place in my heart that can’t be filled by any others. And when faced with leaving that place and those wonderful people behind, I am tempted to cry. I’m tempted to dig my feet into the ground and say, “I’m not going!” Let me build a booth and stay here.
But Jesus says, “Follow me” and I realize that, like it or not, the time has come to move on to the next place.
That day in Auburn, I knew that Steven’s growth as a person required him to move on. Keeping him at home would have stunted his potential. In fact, had he come to me and said, “Mom, I want to stay home. I don’t want things to change.” I would have hugged him and then given him a gentle push out the door, because it was time. I knew that he was not replaceable and our lives would be different because he was gone. But I also knew that this is the way life goes. We are travelers—sojourners—not residents of this time and this place. We have to keep moving, learning, and growing or we stagnate and die.
So now as I prepare to move on to my next stop in this journey, I am tempted to cry over what I am leaving behind. I am tempted to look behind and long for what is now behind me. But I think it is significant that when Lot’s wife looked back she turned was turned from a fully alive human to a monument of what she had been—a symbol of what happens when we spend our lives looking backwards instead of moving forward.
So I smile for all I have experience the last three years at Trinity. We’ve faced some giants! We’ve laughed. We’ve cried. I’ve grown in ways I never imagined. I’ve been touched and I’ve been changed by the people I’ve met, that I’ve worshipped with, that I’ve baptized, that I’ve married, that I’ve buried, that I’ve taught, that I’ve loved, that I’ll miss terribly! Trinity and all its wonderful staff and congregation will always have a special place in my heart.
You’d think the heart would finally be filled to capacity and allow no one else in. Luckily that isn’t how it works at all. Instead, it expands to make room for yet another special place and people.
So today, I say my last goodbye at Trinity and move on to unpack my boxes and find my place at New Life. And I may cry later (oh, who knows, I may cry today) but for now I am excited about the prospect of what lays before me, of new people to love and learn from, and of all the exciting things God has in store!
Image from Bethany