Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both,
And be one traveler, long I stood…*
I’ve been standing in just such a spot for the past two months, knowing the time was right to go one way, yet wishing I could remain on the path I’ve been following for the past four years.
I’m reminded of the end of my sophomore year in college. That year I lived in a dorm with some of the people who would remain my friends, and I knew that even though the connections would remain, it would never be quite the same again. The big event of that year was a concert by Billy Joel at College of Knowledge Hall. Everybody went. And then we listened to Turnstiles over and over and over again.
And although our sophomore year didn’t quite have the thrills (or the drugs) of the life Billy sings about, at the end of the year we sat crying as we listened to "I’ve Loved These Days."
We light our lamps for atmosphere
And hang our hopes on chandeliers
We’re going wrong, we’re gaining weight
We’re sleeping long and far too late
And so it’s time to change our ways
But I’ve loved these days
And so it was for me tonight as I told the lovely people of Small Church that our time together is drawing to a close. Tears were shed and hugs exchanged, and many kind words spoken on both sides.
Leaving in ministry is different than it is in other jobs. You have to go away and not nose in, no matter how well-meaning your nosing might be. You have to let go. We have 40 days of letting go to do, our journey to leave-taking superimposed over Advent, Christmas and Epiphany.
I expect that next Christmas I’ll be wondering how they’re doing, whether they remembered to get the Advent candles ahead of time or had to send someone out at the last minute as we did a few years ago, whether they could find the Christmas banners that are always stored mysteriously yet obviously.
Yet knowing how way leads onto way
I doubted if I should ever come back.*
That’s the hard part. But I trust that, way leading on to way, we will each find the path we’re called to travel.
(Thanks to Pure Luck for the photo from his 2005 AT hike.)
*Robert Frost, "The Road Not Taken"