month the pastor of the church I attend announced that he and his family
will be moving to southern Illinois, where he will be the pastor of
really a surprise, because we found out before Christmas that this was a
possibility. In a sense, a move for them has been a future prospect for as
long as they’re made their home in this area. Pastors do transfer from
place to place.
wasn't easy to receive the news of the decision, just as it was difficult
for him to announce it.
aftermath of Christmas — with bills, tax forms and winter routines —
suddenly shifted, and life changed to fit January's identity as a time of
god Janus, for whom January was named, is pictured with two faces, one
looking backward and the other looking forward. Sometimes we think the
view is better in one direction or the other, but there's no question
about which way we'll be going.
Many of my
encounters with January transitions have been difficult. Going back to
school is a standard part of the month, but in the years when that change
meant leaving home and family for extended periods, I thought the January
goodbyes were some of the hardest, with dark, cold weeks of projects and
papers ahead before a break in the weather or the schedule. Then, my first
year of full-time employment included an abrupt reassignment at the
beginning of the January.
On the other
hand, it was in January that my parents moved to the place that became my
first home, and my favorite job change happened in the first month of the
move for the pastor's family reminded me of the transitions in my own
life, because my father's work also included moving to several new
locations. My schooling produced more moves and more goodbyes. The changes
were not as numerous as some people experience, but the fact that I
haven't always lived in the same area is a basic part of who I am.
thought it was sad to keep leaving when other people didn’t have to go
through that. I wanted the emotional upheavals to end. In some cases I
just wanted to be on the other side of the transitions without crossing
the bridge first. Sometimes I didn’t even wish to make the change, but
there was no turning back.
especially varied period when I lived at a dozen different addresses in
five states in a little more than four years, I was ready for the packing
and moving chores to come around less often, but when more stability of
place returned, I found out I wasn't completely comfortable with that
either. As people I knew moved on to other jobs and homes, I felt wistful.
I didn't want to be the one who was left behind while others had an
I felt the
inner conflict again with the news of this move for the pastor's family. I
remembered the initial excitement about new places, tempered by the
uncertainties and an awareness of the partings that the change will bring.
I remembered the work and the weariness of moving, the transformations of
former homes into curiously spacious emptiness and of unfamiliar houses
into homes with familiar furniture. I remembered warm farewells and
the sadness on both sides, for those who leave and those who are left
behind. With each farewell, I revisit past goodbyes and have a foretaste
of those I've yet to experience. Practice doesn’t necessarily make it
easier, but there's comfort in knowing I've traveled that road before.
always be a wayfarer to some extent, thanks to an afternoon when my family
drove away from a rural setting somewhat like the place where the pastor's
family is going.
When we left
our empty house behind, I was 10, and I had lived at that place all my
life. There were old cottonwoods and newer evergreens, pasture and garden
space, parking lot and playground. There were two houses, a cemetery, a
school and a church.
Slowly, we drove west on the
gravel road to the corner, then north. As we doubled back to the east on
our way to the world beyond, I knew there was one more glimpse of the
place that had always been home. I saw the tops of the red brick steeples,
and my mother quietly handed me a kleenex as the Marysville church
disappeared behind the hill for the last time.