Arriving: What little you control

"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).

New office!
It is Wednesday. My first duties at First Lutheran began just this past Saturday. That means that I have been "official" for all of five days.

These first five days have been a study in extremes. On the one hand, I don't know anybody, and I don't have particular responsibilities yet, and we haven't hammered out all of the details of what being a full staff looks like. And so in that respect it has been a quiet five days of watching and listening and keeping my mouth shut so that I can start to learn the heartbeat of this place. Saturday and Sunday were extremely high-energy and busy. I got a crash-course in liturgy details, poured every ounce of myself into preaching, learned what doors to unlock and when, met a couple hundred people, visited youth group, and accepted very kind invitations to meals and hang-outs. Monday was also very busy in its own right, as I spend the whole day unpacking and setting up my office.

Setting up an office is a strange exercise in control.

Because the first thing you have to do is create a big mess. Monday morning, I emptied out all of the boxes marked "desk supplies" and then started to group them and figure out which drawers to put things in. And then I decided that I didn't like how I'd arranged things, so I emptied your desk and started over with a new arrangement. Then I unpacked all of my books, and put them into piles all across my floor, reorganizing them and grouping them and fitting them on shelves, and trying to anticipate which books I'm going to use most often, so that I could put them on the closest shelf to my desk. Repeat this process for CDs and file folders and decorations and lamps and binders.

In essence, before I could get anything organized and under control, I first had to dump everything out, make a mess, and let go of control. Everything doesn't just simply fit like it did before. No matter how in-control I was when I packed up my old office, my new office had to be chaos first. And, truth be told, no matter how organized my office seems at this very moment, it will yet evolve, and my first impressions of where I want things will end up incorrect, and there will be more shuffling and settling as I get into rhythm here.

Same goes with EVERY OTHER PART of this transition. Everything I thought I knew about being a pastor is a little up in the air right now, as I try to figure out what expectations and needs and hopes this new congregation has for me. Different parts of my personality fit in or stick out in different ways in this new place. I packed up all of my knowledge and passion and expertise in a very in-control sort of when when I left, but now, the only way to make all of those fit in this new place is to dump them all out in the middle of the floor, and to let things be chaotic and messy and out of my hands until I learn the daily flow of this place.

Because, well, let's be honest. I'm in control of very little right now. I'm not yet in charge of things in the congregation, not specifically, at least. I'm learning the feel and flow, but am not in charge of it. I don't know a lot, I don't have many relationships, I don't know my way around. And so I must let myself get swept up in the current for right now. Observing, asking questions, stuffing as much information into my brain as I can make fit. Accepting lots of invitations, pushing myself to be a fake extrovert so I can meet lots more people, letting people drive me places and show me around and set my schedule for me.

What little I control right now is my demeanor, my personality, my energy; my openness to God's call to this place. Bit by bit, I will be able to grasp more pieces of my life back under my own control. But for right now, I am all dumped out on the floor, in the midst of fruitful chaos, being carried along by others (no matter how much I hate to feel so vulnerable!), and reminding myself that patience and perseverance are indeed incredible virtues.

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