12 years or so ago my now husband, then dear friend, indicated that he was “feeling a growing fondness for [me] and wanted to talk about the possibility of pursuing a romantic relationship with [me].” (This is just one point in our story where he would interject, were we telling the story together, that he gets formal when he gets nervous.) I was going to see him in a few weeks so I declined to have a conversation about upping the ante on our five year friendship over the phone. I thought about his proposition carefully, but… just didn’t think I was attracted to him and wasn’t willing to lay a five year friendship on the line on the eve of departing for seminary. So I had a carefully prepared speech ready to let him down easily and maintain the friendship. But when I saw him for the first time after he made his feelings known my stomach flipped, and the speech didn’t make sense anymore, and I didn’t know what to say… And here we are on our way to 9 years married.
I’m thinking about this as I am now two weeks away from done with what has turned into a seven month preaching gig that was supposed to only last two months. I’m leaving not because they have found an interim or installed pastor (I started the week after their pastor retired and in the wake of a lot of conflict.) but because I’m entering a stretch where I just don’t have sermons that can be easily reworked for new purposes and so I’m writing two new sermons for them this month and would have to write several next month and I just don’t have the time for that. Further… as I indicated in the last post, I have A LOT to accomplish in the next 15 months and I really need to concentrate on my studies. And… maybe clearing out will hasten their interim pastor search which would be for the good because they need a pastor- a full-on pastor- and I just can’t be that for them.
Or can I?
No, of course I can’t. But something has flipped in me in the past week and I don’t feel ready to leave. I haven’t felt attached until now, but now… two weeks shy of leaving… moments of synchronicity are happening in worship; I’m remembering that I LIKE to write sermons for people I’m coming to know and love; hurting people are showing up and I’m finding myself in prayer with those people after church; I have the opportunity to baptize a woman in recovery on my last Sunday there (a woman who was previously ordained in this congregation never having admitted that she was unbaptized… she’s willing to stand up in front of everyone and make it right); random visitors are staying after worship to have theological conversations with me about things that matter the most to me, the very things that drove me back to school; the synchronicity in worship? I’m clicking with the musicians. We’re finally finding our groove.; I’ve had a lot of energy in my worship leadership; I’m realizing I love these people and I just don’t know if I’m ready to say goodbye.
Is it call? Is it ego? Is it wanting to do what I know I can do at a time when I’m confronted with so much I don’t know if I can do?
I wonder if they’ve been unable to find someone because I’m supposed to do it. They’ve had two apparently sealed deals with interims fall through. But then maybe they aren’t trying to make anything work because I’m around.
But I CAN’T be a full time pastor for them and they need a full time pastor.
But then I stay after church to study today and remember how great it is to have an office in which to study. And I manage to entertain Caroline while I’m there giving Kev a whole day to himself. (And other weeks this month a church member will take care of her.) And when I leave the deacons have wrapped up a meeting, the youth group is wrapping up, and the visionary committee is wrapping up. Vital ministry is going on without a pastor’s leadership. And everyone I like the best is walking out of that visionary committee meeting. And… stomach flipping. Big time.
It would be easier to walk away if they had someone. Knowing that a few vulnerable folks have recently showed up and it may be some time before they have stable pastoral leadership bothers me. I know I could continue my sweet deal of worship leadership only until they find someone. I’m pretty sure they would accept more leadership from me if I were willing to provide it. No, I know they would. And the financial compensation is very nice.
What do you think friends? Retract my firm end date? Take a month break and then see where they stand and how I’m feeling? Walk away and don’t look back?
I can’t believe I’m thinking about this.