"Leaving" is a series of blog posts having to do with my process of transitioning out of my first call and into a new call; leaving St. Timothy Lutheran (Naperville, IL) and moving to First Lutheran (Decorah, IA).
This is what my office looks like right now:
Everything from my bookshelves and file cabinets and storage cabinet and closet and desk are is now living in boxes. My wall of artwork is now bare. I am now keenly aware of how many books I really have, and how many coffee mugs have migrated from home to office, and just how many pens and pencils I've received from conferences, organizations, colleges, and events.
I have purged my file cabinet and filled the office recycling bin. I have donated extra craft items to the Sunday School resource room and extra office supplies to the workroom. I have looked at myself in disgust when I think about how much stuff I have accumulated over the last three years, and I have gotten teary when I remember that some of that "stuff" is the stack of pictures that children and youth have drawn for me.
But what is truly interesting is that even with all of my stuff boxed up, out of reach, unavailable, I have still spent this last week doing ministry. For as much as I get sentimental over them, my books are not what make my ministry. For as particular as I can be about which brand/style/color of pen I will use to write in my day planner, my office supplies (or lack thereof) do not determine my identity as a pastor. Thoughtful cards from my ordination and my first letter of call are tucked away inside a folder, buried at the bottom of a box, and yet I am still a called and ordained pastor, living my vocation to word and sacrament ministry.
My office might be packed and I might be blocked in by stacks of boxes, but I have still led worship and opened my office to those who need to talk. I have eaten meals and shared coffee with dear people across a wide range of generations. I have been able to preach and teach and pray. And I've been able to do it apart from all of my stuff.
Sometimes I like to believe that my stuff is what makes me legitimate. I'm tempted to think, "I'm a good pastor if people know that I study and read. I'm a good pastor if I can keep my office clean. I'm a good pastor if I have artwork on my walls that makes my office feel comfortable and approachable. I'm a good pastor if I have an extra mug to offer you some tea."
But, of course, it's not about the stuff. It never was.
Ministry is about who I am. It is about what I do and what God is calling me to do. It is about my head and my heart and my soul.
And even with everything else all boxed up, even as I feel like my time here at St. Timothy has been packed away, I have been reminded all week that my ministry will stick with me until the bitter end, and probably beyond.
And I'm sure that I will remember this all over again when I move into my new office at First Lutheran. I will talk to people and visit people and lead worship and care and pray for the congregation long before I've unpacked all my boxes and put all of my artwork up on the walls.
Because faith and ministry and the things of my soul and my calling are all about the intangibles. And not about the stuff.