In less than two weeks, the Vine will be ending.
My wife wrote about her experience here. I’ve held off on saying much, wanting to be able to tie this story up in a neat bow (or, if neat bows are not coming, at least some twine and duct tape), before I said much publicly.
However, I’m beginning to realize that, when coming to the end of a journey such as this one, even twine and duct tape may be a long time in coming.
With that in mind, here are a few disconnected thoughts about where I’m at.
1) This was not just a job for me.
Doing this sort of work is not just a way to pay the bills. You hold up everything you cherish about what it means to follow Jesus, to be human, to be community, and then you try to make it reality in the people who you meet. I always wanted the Vine to be a direct, complete expression of my deepest held values and closely held dreams. For a little while, I was even paid to see if I could make those dreams become reality.
The fact that it didn’t take, (even though it bore much fruit,) after five years of good, but often unbelievably backbreaking, heartbreaking work, makes “moving on” a little more complicated than if I had been flipping burgers for the last half-decade.
My wife and I joked that the Vine was our first child. It was the center of our life for six years, sometimes at great relational, financial, and personal cost. You don’t let things like that go easily, even when their time has come.
2) I’m Grieving.
And it’s a process.
Some days, I’m okay – even excited for what the future might bring.
Some days, I’m angry – at others for not living into the community the way I’d hope they would, or at myself, for all the mistakes and missed opportunities.
Some days, I’m depressed – and wondering if I’ll be condemned to a future spent stocking shelves at a grocery store. (Which is currently plan A. Anyone want some organic pineapples?)
Some days, I’m bargaining – (but not too often anymore), trying to figure out what could have been done differently.
Some days, you’re going to ask me how I’m doing, and I’m going to be way more honest than you really wanted me to be.
Some days, you’re really going to want to know how I’m doing, and all I’ll be able to do is give you a list of stock answers from my Bag of Appropriate Responses.
This is all okay. More than that, it’s healthy. It should be difficult to say goodbye to something like this.
So please, don’t worry too much about us. (Unless that worrying includes dropping pizza and/or chinese food and/or Ben & Jerry’s at our door. If that’s case, please, by all means, worry all you like.)
3) No, I don’t know what I’m going to do next
For the first time since I was ten years old, I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up.
At this juncture, I can’t visualize pastoring a traditional church.
At this juncture, I can’t imagine jumping back into the blast furnace known as church planting.
At this juncture, I have no idea what marketable skills an out-of-work ex-pastor could bring to the general public.
In short, I have no idea what I’m going to do next (although if you have any good ideas, please let me know.)
4) It’s all okay. Really.
I’m not panicking (at least not most of the time), because I believe very strongly that God is working through all of this.
No, I’m not just saying that either.
I may want the timeline to be a little faster, I may want to be able to see more than a few steps down the road, but in the end, I truly believe that God is working this whole thing together for good.
So – be gentle with us, be supportive, understand if we don’t respond to your wonderfully sympathetic messages right away (we still read them and definitely appreciate them), and if we don’t have all the answers yet. We trust it will all come together in time, even if God never gift wraps it for us.
I loved every word of this, Ben. I am also struggling with an “ending” and your thoughts were helpful. Love you two.
Love you too Sue – and glad these thoughts were helpful for you. Hopefully we can gather over Mexican sometime soon!
I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up either… I know that whatever you guys decide to do, you will be a huge blessing there. You have made footprints in this community, those you have reached will surely be using them to guide them on their journeys.
That, and I think we should totally start a soup and salad joint (with super awesome bread of course) How cool with that be?? Because everyone knows that restaurant business is a great way to relax…lol.
Hmm…what should we call it?
(fyi you will need to be signed in to Facebook to see this link)
Lol! That was a truly great little moment in our life together! Thanks for being part of our journey – and thanks for your affirmation as well – it’s good to know we made a difference for some folks during these last five years.
One thing I hope you will continue to do–WRITE/BLOG or find another medium for sharing your thoughts.
That is the plan! On this blog, 4-5 days a week I hope, and once the Vine ends on October 12th, I’m hoping to share more extensively from our story over the last five years.
Though I have just stumbled into your blog as of late I agree. Please DO NOT stop writing!
Parenthood can be messy. Poopy diapers, spit up, sleepless nights (or years)… Not all baby coos and smiles for sure. Nothing is ever as pretty as it looks from the outside looking in and since you mentioned your church plant was like your firstborn child I figured I’d chime in. I’ll have you know that you rethink yourself every day as a parent – I’m gonna screw this kid up good. Your child walks out of the bathroom covered in poop from head to toe and you’re just like WHAT THE!? But then you look and see what he/she does for others or says when they don’t think you’re looking and you’re like wow, I did ok. YOU DID OK.
There are people, I’m sure, on whom you’ve made a good impression. DO NOT feel like a failure. though the church plant may not have worked out as you thought it might have, you did this for five years. You touched five years worth of hearts and spirits. Though these people may have fallen back into addiction or whatever bad situation they’d come from, they still have the lessons and prayers that you and Melissa helped to foster in their hearts. Some day they could look back, remember those lessons and turn things around once again.
Whatever you guys decide, God is with you and I’m sure you’ll continue to minister to people whether it is as “pastors” or just really great people.
I’m going to attempt to keep reading your blog as I love your writing and I haven’t heard much from you and Melissa in the last five years. Seems pastors and parents are equally as busy and have time for nothing besides shoutouts on facebook or twitter because life “gets in the way.” It can be beautiful and it can be pure hell, but whatever it is, its life and we’re all living it. By the grace of God we’ll all “figure out what we want to be when we grow up.” I vote for less busy…
I’m with you Kristen. The hope for me is that sitting, often right in the middle of the mess, is God. And, if I’m willing to wade through piles of the stuff, I’ll inevitably find something beautiful. (And I’m so glad you found my blog and decided to comment – I’m voting for less busy as well!)