This is our last week in Sammamish, WA. It is a time to pack up and put everything into storage for a couple of weeks until moving day. We are getting estimates and making decisions on who will do the move. It is a chance to enjoy one last dinner with various friends. It is an opportunity to reflect on what God has done during our 22 years in the Pacific Northwest. It is a time to rejoice in how God answered prayer in taking us from one ministry to the next. It is a time to say goodbye to friends, comrades, and coworkers. It is a week of looking forward while at the same looking backwards. It is a week of rejoicing as well as a week of grieving.
Needless to say, it is a week of mixed emotions. We experience the balancing truths of Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, “There is a time to ____ and a time to ____.” During these last days, our emotions run the gamut and cover the waterfront.
We rejoice that God answered prayer in releasing us from a difficult, draining ministry. We grieve that we have to say goodbye to so many close friends who we invested in and who invested in us. We rejoice that God again answered prayer in leading us to a new ministry. We grieve that God led us further away from our parents, siblings, and children. We rejoice that he is taking us to a group of folks who need our gifts and experiences and who want us to join them. We grieve because we leave behind two decades of memories. We rejoice in knowing that God has good plans for our future.
We rejoice in what lies before us. We grieve over what we leave behind. We look forward to what God is going to do there. We grieve over letting go of what he did here.
This recognition of the bundled emotions of joy and grief is part of the process of counting the cost of discipleship that Jesus mentioned in Luke 14:25-33. We know we have to deny ourselves and willingly follow Jesus, and we do so with great joy. But we acknowledge that that denial carries a hefty price tag. We believe the truth of the promise of Matthew 19:29, that if we leave houses or siblings or parents or children for the sake of the gospel we will receive even greater rewards in the kingdom. But at the time, it hurts to leave houses, siblings, parents, and especially children to follow Jesus.
Please don’t misunderstand. Carol and I willingly and joyfully follow Jesus. We said we were and are willing to go wherever he leads. Our move from west coast to east coast, from Washington State to Massachusetts is evidence of our commitment. But we have to acknowledge what this change costs before we can offer it back to Christ as a willing sacrifice. As we learned when we read Dr. Henry Cloud’s book, Necessary Endings, we need to properly grieve over one chapter closing before we can joyfully open the next chapter.
While the process of change is difficult, it is not a bad thing. If nothing else, we are reminded that when we came to Seattle 22 years ago, we hated it and did not want to be here. And yet now it is home and we hate to leave. In time, we will grow to love our new home and ministry in Chicopee, MA. But that joy will first be mixed with grief. It is all part of being human.