Monday, April 13, 2020

Set Adrift

Perhaps you are familiar with the term "anticipatory grief." It's the idea that you begin to brace yourself for a time of mourning that you know is coming before it actually happens. When a loved one enters hospice care, for instance, one may begin the process of grieving prior to the actual time of death. You prepare yourself mentally, emotionally, and spiritually for when that moment fully arrives.

Of course, anticipatory grief does not take the place of what you experience once the loss happens. You enter a new stage at that point, coming face to face with what you were preparing yourself to endure.

My anticipatory grief for the end of my ministry with my second pastorate began in January when I sent my resignation letter to the governing board. It probably started even earlier than that when I began interviewing for the position that I'll begin later this week. I started to take stock not only of my time here, but also of 15 years of being a pastor. This would not only mark the end of a specific pastorate but a larger season of ministry.

But then came the pandemic that kept me at home my final month, preaching sermons at my phone camera on Sunday mornings. This would include my last Sunday, coincidentally Easter Sunday, the day when we look forward to new life after death.

There would be no in-person farewell (other than a car parade, which was fun), no reception, no smell of lilies.

Instead, I hit a button to end Facebook Live.

Seven years, and eight more before that, concluded with the soft click noise that comes when you finish your streaming session.

And then I was alone. Even more alone than I'd been an hour earlier. Not much would change in my daily life for a while, but I'd be going ahead without a congregational community for the first time...ever, really. I've never really known life apart from one before. The layers of novelty and disorientation just keep piling on top of each other.

I anticipated this, but now that I'm here, it's even more unusual than I imagined.

On the other hand, I can drop in on lots of colleagues' livestreams until this is over. And I'll become best friends with Zoom as I meet virtually with new coworkers and as I begin connecting with people around the denomination. I may not have a specific church, but I have The Church, and that is still a lot.

But I know there will be moments when this new season's continuing grief will set itself front and center in my spirit. Just as with Holy Week and Easter, better to journey through the cross to resurrection rather than try to walk around it.

And then eventually, new life will bloom again.

(image source)