Up and Down, Up and Down
I love roller coasters.
I’m a bit of an adrenaline junkie and have always found the momentary feeling of weightlessness that comes as you begin a rapid descent, the feeling of being pushed into your seat while on a loop, and the wondering of what the next turn will bring while strapped into the seat of a roller coaster to be exhilarating.
One roller coaster I’m not necessarily enjoying as much this week is the coaster of grief. Though, even if I’m not enjoying it, I know that riding it is necessary. I anticipate I will have to take the moments I feel four times as heavy as normal along with the moments of weightlessness.
I knew we’d get here, to the point of being strapped in for a ride this week and next. These dates have been looming on the calendar for a while now.
This week, transition is the name of the game.
This Friday and Saturday, the Lutheran congregations in the Metro DC area are gathering together for Synod Assembly – the one time a year we get together to do the business of our collective churches in this area. This year, our bishop is retiring and we will be electing a new bishop. Our current bishop is a man I greatly admire and someone who is very dear to me. He was the bishop who ordained me and has been my bishop from the time I was a new, baby pastor until now. He has walked through challenging portions of ministry with me and been with me for personal transitions, too. I will miss his presence in the leadership of this synod.
And… I also recognize it is time for new leadership and a new person to lead. I look forward to whoever it is God is calling to be the next bishop of the Metropolitan Washington DC Synod and the ways our life together will change. I anticipate there will be plenty of moments of excitement mixed in with the sadness I will feel over the two days we are together as a synod.
Yet, those two days only serve as an appetizer for Sunday, when we at Faith will say goodbye to my friend and colleague, my co-pastor, Yvette.
As I write this, I think back to the moment before I started here when we were talking through what it would be to be co-pastors, equally sharing the responsibility of pastoral leadership in this place, and we began to compare it to marriage. That is to have a partner who is equal to you and having to find ways to honor that person’s wishes and desires as well as your own as you live together. I think that metaphor has proven to be true for us – having to make compromises about how best to proceed when we weren’t on the same page and talking through things until we could get there.
On Sunday, we’re divorcing and it sucks.
Let’s be very clear, I’m happy for her and her family. They are moving because her husband has a new job that is also the completion of a very long period of work for him. They will be closer to her family and she is returning to her home state. I am also convinced this is where God is calling them now. All extremely good reasons to leave.
And I’m still losing my partner. The one who complements my ministry here. The one who often thinks like me but will also have a slightly different slant that helps bring things into focus. The one I can bounce ideas off of and will sometimes inspire new ones. We work well together and I am grateful for the past 3 years of being here in this place together.
And I’m losing my friend. The one with whom I like to talk about new TV shows and laugh at things too absurd to be real yet are. And the first one who showed up after I called the day my late-husband died – an anniversary that is next week.
Like our bishop, she has walked through a lot of things with me over the past three years and I am immensely grateful for her. We have gone through challenges in ministry together and she has been with me in my grief. We have enjoyed successes together and with the congregation.
There is much to be grateful for and much to mourn. Up and down we go on the roller coaster.
In some ways, this roller coaster may not be as pleasurable as any I’ve ever ridden at an amusement park, but there is plenty of good in it. Like most parts of grief, it is intermingled with beauty and joy.
The sadness is a reflection of the relationship that will be lost, but there is also joy about what is ahead, both for Yvette and her family as well as for us here at Faith. I am excited to welcome an intern to Faith for the next two years – for the relationship we will develop and the ways we will be in ministry together with the congregation. I’m excited to see how she learns and grows as she develops her pastoral identity as well as the adventures that await us in Arlington. As much as I am convinced Yvette and her family are being called west, I firmly believe this is what God wants for us at this time too.
So if you see me in the next two weeks with tears in my eyes, that’s why.
This is a holy time.