We (my family) are under farewell.
In Salvation Army terminology we were given marching orders, and soon those orders will come to fruition.
It is, as it usually is, bittersweet. It reminds me, as an Officer, that this life and calling is at times very transitory.
It seems that we could claim that famous line from Robert Frost that says,
“But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep”
(Stopping by Woods on a snowy evening)
For it seems to me that this journey within this uniform is often times met with both laughter and tears, sorrow and joy, the swell of jubilation and the crash of brokenness…all rolled into one. Those words of Jesus often resound in my head like I was there that day listening to them, hanging on them, and making them mine – “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” (Luke 9:58)… We as Salvationists who have accepted this calling as Officers of The Salvation Army, literally live within borrowed homes and it seems all so temporary. It is not that we are attempting to do the impossible and assume the very existence of Christ, but within the covenant that we have signed and in the sacrificial lives that we are to accept, there is certainly this element of homelessness that embodies transitions such as these.
I am, perhaps feeling a little bit melancholy today.
For the boxes are piling up in the garage.
The paintings and photographs are now bubble wrapped and in the ready.
The children’s art work that used to adorn the refrigerator and would often times overflow onto the surrounding cabinet in a cacophany of paint splashes and vibrant colors reflecting child-like creative expression, has now been carefully folded and packaged beneath plastic bins containing other family keepsakes.
The quarters, the house that we have occupied for nearly four years is becoming vacant and echos of emptiness fill both my ears and my heart. There are, however, still ghosts which linger here. Mere memories of events hosted, and parties with favors and paper streamers strewn everywhere. These ghosts hover upon my memories today. They fill the void of these now empty rooms as lists of cleanings and briefs and a litany of other concerns flood in before the final goodbyes take place.
This is, to be certain, a unique calling to undertake.
We can sometimes, with rose colored glasses, peer into “Officership” and see only the adventures and the “win the worlds for Jesus'”, but often times it does come with a price. There are trade offs. We don’t ever take for granted what is provided to us, for certainly we are taken care of (far more than yesteryear where officers wouldn’t even have a paycheck for nearly a year if times were hard) and our families are supported rather well. We are blessed to see this level of support. No, we do not take this for granted, but despite our best efforts, these transitions, these farewells and marching orders do take a toll. The transition (which may as well be some sort of holiness movement’s version of purgatory) can sometimes leave us stepping from one appointment over the deep dark, scary crevice of limbo and uneasiness. It is the letting go of hands that you have ministered to for the last four years and have invested countless hours in…those hands will be holding onto another shepherd (very qualified I am positive of by the way)…and as you let go, there in the other direction is another group of hands of people to minister to lead and disciple (they too have been shepherded by very capable hands as well). This is certainly a unique place to stand at the moment. I am currently staring into the empty room that once occupied so much…our bags are all packed, and yet there is a burden and an ache as I write these words today.
Some have wisely said that if we didn’t feel this burden and ache as you leave then perhaps there might be something wrong. If this is true, then something is certainly right with me today. Each place of ministry is unique. It is an adventure. It is, often times, a leap of faith. I do sometimes struggle with this full-submission in the calling. It’s not so much that I don’t trust God as to where He will place our next step…but perhaps I just don’t trust people as much as I should…perhaps I am still learning to trust leaders and leadership of any kind.
Honestly, the life of an Officer in the Salvation Army is rewarding, but there are the heartaches as well…maybe that’s what Jesus was talking about when said those words to those He was calling to follow Him:
As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Manhas no place to lay his head.” He said to another man, “Follow me.” But he replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.” Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:57-62)
I’m really not trying to look back today.
It’s daunting…But Jesus is strong to deliver, He IS mighty to save, mighty to save!
And so we go, and we go in faith.
This sacrificial life is not easy, but then again nothing is easy if it’s worth it…and I know it’s worth it!
Something more to ponder today as I go back and pack some more boxes.
To God be the glory!