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.