If I could choose one word to describe this past while, it has been “transition”. At long last, I signed on for a one-year commitment to work 1/2 time at St. Aidan’s Christian School, a great little independent school servicing recent African immigrants in the inner city. I have been volunteering there since last September, and when the administrator there offered me a 1/2 time position next September, MB Teacher’s Society said yes. It’s out of the norm for MTS, but they are seeing it as part of my “rehab” on my medical leave. I have been very grateful for this creative option, which couldn’t be a better fit for me. I actually begin unofficially in one week.
The other side of the coin has been finally realizing that I will part ways with my old school. It isn’t really new news for me, but it has still left me with loads of mixed feelings — gratitude for having worked with the best co-workers and students for 11 years, sadness at saying good-bye, regret at not having said a better good-bye at this time last year and worry about how I’ll handle a regular schedule again. Not surprisingly, it’s translated to a few more wonky head days than usual lately.
As usual, God has been seeing me through this time. The prayers and guidance of my faith community and the learnings that God always seems to whisper in my ear have kept me moving forward.
The biggest lesson (and it’s not a new one — I’m a slow learner!) has been that it’ll be ok to let go. When I first went on leave, I began noticing the over-attachment I had to work and this identity of “teacher,” and it seems the lesson is springing up again. Like a mantra, I’ve been remembering that all these identifiers are temporary. There’s nothing on this earth I won’t have to say good-bye to eventually. Though it sounds cliche, the only thing that really endures is God.
I’ve been given the rich opportunity lately to contemplate this story as I’ve been writing and editing for a blog on our church’s website. Recently, we finished a study of a book called The Story of God, the Story of Us, by Sean Gladding, and we wanted to share our experience online.
Gladding’s book tells the big-picture Story of both Old and New Testaments through an imaginary group hearing the stories for the first time. These are stories I’ve heard all my life in Sunday School and church, and sometimes they feel so old that I tune them out. But as we studied the book, and particularly as I have gone through each chapter with a fine tooth comb, re-reading the themes for the blog, I’ve had the chance to hear the stories at a deeper level.
I’m hearing that though we humans continually mess things up, it’s not the most important half of the equation. The “story of God” is that God loves us with a love called chesed in the Hebrew language. The word translates as “loving kindness.” When the Israelites kept betraying the covenant God had made with them throughout the Old Testament, God was never tit-for-tat, but always remained loyal to it.
That means that nothing we can do can separate us from God’s benevolence, like having the best parent ever. Even when our hands and minds and hearts are closed to hope, God finds ways of continuing to stay loyal and forgiving.
When you’re in a time of transition, and worries for the future and regrets for the past stir up ancient headaches at 3 a.m., this is something solid to rely on, let me tell you! Tossing one night, I began to search for what was true. What could I hang on to? My own story is not as reliable as I thought it was when I was so busy earlier in my life, building my career, raising a child and securing my house. Now the only lifeboat that felt solid came from the darn summaries I was writing about in the blog — the story of God as it weaves through my own.
I’ve hung onto this moment of 3 a.m. insight, which I have no doubt came from God. It’s all gonna be ok kiddo, God was saying. You can let go of all that and I’ll still be here in the morning.
As transition times probably always are, this one feels messy and soaked through with sadness. Even if I’m going through it imperfectly, God is sticking with me, showing me that perfection is not what God is after — only that I keep remembering the Story that is greater than my own. I know the Story is fixing me, bringing me home.
“For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” Jeremiah 31:33