Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Terrains of the Heart, Take 2

Last June, I wrote an entry entitled Terrains of the Heart. The phrase refers to physical locations that replenish our spirits whenever we're able to return, and that hold special places in our hearts when we're away from them. I played with the definition a little, suggesting that "terrains of the heart" can change over time, and depending on the company you keep while visiting them.

I was thinking about this phrase again the other day, because I believe that I've been grieving the passing of my latest terrain of the heart for the past several months.

Putting it into those words surprised me, but it makes sense. In the other post, I name St. Louis as my current terrain of the heart, but I'd probably narrow it to Eden Seminary. This past May, I returned to campus for my final eligible year to attend Herbster, their event for the five most recent graduating classes. It's always a time to revisit our favorite St. Louis haunts and share ministry advice and experiences. This event and the seminary in general had continued to serve as a reference point for us.

It was the final night of my stay this past year when I was ready to go home. I mean, I was mentally ready. I usually soak up as much of the atmosphere down there as possible, but it didn't have that same feel and I didn't have that same inspiration to do so. I was ready to get home to the Coffeefamily, my real home, my only home. This was the first instance of me realizing that I didn't really have a "second home" any more. Fellow graduates from classes ahead of me were no longer eligible to return, and I began to accept that I was about to join their ranks. Couple this with news of professor retirements or accepting new positions at other schools, and my terrain of the heart has become less and less of a reference point in the manner that I've treasured over the years.

I think that what has driven this point home recently is my anticipation of my five-year anniversary with my current call later this month. I am over five years out of seminary, and now I've completed nearly five years at this place. During these first five years, I've been able to return to Eden to recharge, reconnect, swap experiences. We have a Yahoo group for similar purposes, which has been dormant for months. We've become increasingly busy, have connected individually instead, have become busy with budding families or ministry, are settling into or seeking new calls. We've traveled further into careers such that priorities and needs are changing or have changed.

So as I look ahead to the beginning of my sixth year and beyond, I've begun to realize that my priorities and needs have begun to change as well, and a different point of reference, a different way to connect with friends and colleagues, a different terrain of the heart, is necessary.

As I've said, I've been grieving this without even really realizing it. Perhaps I've put it off or ignored the signs. But I'm ready to admit it and confront it now, and I'm more willing to seek out new terrains of the heart for my own rejuvenation and growth. I can already point to contacts and gatherings around my Association for such things. I can point to the retreat center I've been visiting lately. I can point to my own church's sanctuary. I can point to the new house that my family and I will soon turn into a home. And I can certainly point to those relationships from seminary that go beyond annual reunions, that endure through phone calls, e-mails, Facebook, or occasional meet-ups.

I grieve what is passing away, but give thanks for what endures and recognize (and even celebrate) that a new stage of life has begun.