Arriving: Gains and losses

"Arriving" is a continuation of the blog series "Leaving," which reflects upon 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).
I've been here at First for four weeks now, and my life here is starting to feel nice and full. I am learning names, I have been invited to dinners and hangouts and coffees, I've already fallen behind on filing papers and emails. I know the movement of the liturgy, I know how to use the copier, and I know the names of a bunch of high schoolers from my visits to youth group.

But it is through all of these gains - and the gains yet to come! - that I am also becoming more aware of my losses.

Here's what stinks about the transition process: I can only be in one place at a time.

The only way for me to serve a congregation is to build relationships on a personal level. That is to say, I can only be a good pastor if I am personally invested in the congregation and its members. And I am pleased that this process of relationship-building is happening at First. But it also means that I feel sad about the relationships I left behind at St. Timothy.

I know that I cannot be pastor to two congregations at once. But it is really hard to be out of touch with people whom I care deeply about. It's hard to look at old pictures of the St. Timothy high school group, because I miss hanging out with them. It's hard to catch word about events and activities going on at St. Timothy, because I picture the faces of all of those people whom I love, gathering to worship and to serve, and I miss being with them. I think about members who were in poor health, or who were going through difficult times, and it hurts that I'm not in a place to follow up with them or reach out to them.

And I know that it has to be that way. I absolutely want to be at First, and I am so ready to love and care for and serve everybody in this congregation. But it's a really strange exercise to just walk way from people and a place in which I invested so much time and emotion.

It's a peculiar cruelty of the pastoral role, I think. Because you have to be invested for it to work...but you also have to let go when you leave.

Such is the way with transitions, I suppose. Even to pursue good and exciting and meaningful change, you have to leave some part of yourself behind. In order to start a new life, you have to leave pieces of your old life behind. Where there are new gains, there will also be some losses.

The loving part of being a pastor is amazing. The letting go part is harder.

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