Feeling settled is highly overrated.
Since the decision to retire at the end of April, it feels like our lives have been in a constant state of transition – getting a house ready to sell, helping a congregation prepare for our leaving, getting ready to move, driving a Uhaul over 700 miles only to deposit most of our possessions in a storage unit. Staying in Albion through the gracious hospitality of our friend Charlotte, while searching for a house 50 minutes away in Kalamazoo. Buying a house, buying another house while moving into the first house, living out of boxes while working on and trying to sell the first house, closing on the second house, working on the second house, moving into the second house, traveling 168 miles one way to Ikea to purchase bookshelves for the books in my study, buying a bedroom set a few days ago on Facebook Marketplace so that we are finally, finally no longer living out of boxes. And I’m thinking, “We’re almost there.”
After putting up cheap blinds in the bedroom and study, Sharon and I figured that our naked living room windows needed a little something. Uncertain what direction to take, we took advantage yesterday of a free design consultation with someone from Home Depot. After deciding to bite the bullet we learned that the blinds will probably arrive in... six weeks.
Six weeks! Six more weeks of naked windows. Six more weeks of feeling exposed. Six more weeks of not feeling settled.
This morning, while being still before the Lord, I tried to put a positive spin on it. Now I have six weeks to work on the hundred little projects that will really make us feel settled. Six weeks is good. The goal is in sight. Consider this an extended Advent.
Who am I kidding.
One of the most confusing, and on the surface, laughable (except for the circumstances) things Jesus ever said was, “It is finished.” According to one account, these were his last words before heaving his last breath on the cross. What was finished? What about the kingdom he spent three years talking about? Obviously that wasn’t even close to being finished. It had hardly begun!
A part of me wants at least one part of my life to no longer be in transition. I get that figuring out retirement is going to take awhile. Developing a website is no doubt going to be ongoing. Finding a church after pastoring a church, especially during Covid, is obviously complicated and requires more than a snap decision. Getting my ducks in a row for working on my book also isn’t going to happen overnight. We also know we’re not going to feel settled until we’re connecting with more people the world often considers “the least of these,” but Jesus considers his brothers and sisters.
And this is the truth of it. It’s like Theresa of Avila said in one of her poems: “Everything is changing. God alone is changeless. Patience attains the goal.”
The church seems to be in transition. But when has it ever not been in transition?
Our country seems to be changing. But when hasn’t it been?
How about kids? When are they not in transition (even when they are no longer kids)?
When are we humans ever not living in a state of flux?
Thanks for your response to Sharon’s poem yesterday. Poems, like sermons, are never done. Some poets are still working on their poems decades after publication. We were still workshopping Sharon’s poem minutes before sharing it with you. Yes, it’s finished – for now.
One of the blessings of being back in Michigan is being able to be with our friends Don and Ann as they transition from life to Life. They’ve been in hospice since being hit with Covid last year. Don and Ann headed up the pastoral search committee that called me to my first pastorate after seminary. They were both part of our house church called the Bread of Life Community. They also volunteered at the Next Door women’s shelter where Sharon and I lived and worked. (Ann continued to volunteer long after we left.) Don, never cautious about giving advise (ask any of his children), has been cautioning me to slow down, to take my wife out to a movie.
Even before everything gets done.
Everything is changing. Life is transition. The kingdom is an already/not yet kingdom. We live between advents. ("Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.") When people wanted to follow Jesus, he warned them that feeling settled wasn’t part of the contract. We are learning to rule/reign/love/serve in uncertain times, because all time is uncertain. Everything is changing.
The only thing that’s certain is that nothing can separate us from God’s love. That’s where we can settle. That’s something we can bank on. That’s where we can rest now.
“It is finished.”