Today is the kidâ€™s last day of school, at least for this grade. As they were getting out of the car I joked with them, â€œI remember my last day of school. . . when I graduated from the fourth grade,â€ but then went on to say, â€œohh except for fifth grade, I remember the last day of fifth grade, ohh except for sixth grade, etc. . . all the way through 2009â€œ They said, we were alive in 2009!â€ â€œYeah, I was still in school when you were in second grade (the grade H-G is in now).â€ â€œBut summer vacation is almost here â€“ so enjoy it, because you will be in school until your children are in second grade!â€
Itâ€™s funny how when we end a season of our lives that we somehow think we are finished moving from one thing to another. But days of swimming, sleeping late, camps, and playing Legos all day are just around the corner. For my children, they are beginning a transition from one grade to another.Â They have made it through a new school year, a new school, new friends, a new home, and a new life.
I am reminded that FBCVâ€™s new youth pastor has completed his first week.Â It was a week of cleaning out his office, figuring out which keys go to what, meeting the staff, and trying to remember where his office is in a maze of church buildings filled with crevices and surprises.Â I am convinced that I will discover the Lost Ark somewhere on FBCV campus.
â€œI remember my first week at FBCV . . .â€ so many months ago (like ten). The end of the summer will mark my first year as serving as the Pastor of Children and Families. In many ways I still feel like I am transitioning from one life to another.
Life is constantly moving from one thing to another â€“ we are in constant transition. When you are born your body radically changes daily. From there itâ€™s walking, potty training, eating by yourself, then eventually reading, writing, driving, Calculus, girlfriends, college, marriage, kids, mini-vans, and thinning hair. At every stage, just when you have it figured out, guess what? Itâ€™s time to change to something else. If the transitions ever slow down, we get bored, and get way too contemplative. Itâ€™s the constant and sudden changes that keeps us from too deep of thought, too much time to get in trouble.
The following are a few mistakes that we can make if donâ€™t deal with transitions very well.
1.Â Looking toward the next transition too soon. When I was in seminary there were those that would max out the amount of classes they could take. They rarely (if ever) left their rooms except to go to class. If you did happen to see these recluses, and were able to squeeze in a conversation, they constantly talked about how they wanted to finish school as soon as possible (yeah, no kidding).
They were missing â€œthe seminary experienceâ€ in order to get to the â€œreal worldâ€ of ministry. The whole purpose of seminary was to equip them for the ministry they desired to do, but in their rushing through the experience they were short circuiting the process of being equipped in order to move to the next stage.
At every stage of life and in every time of transition there are things we are to learn, life lessons to experience, and people that we are to meet and engage in life with. If you move from stage to stage, and transition to transition, with never stopping to engage in the moment, then you are going to miss something very important in your life. When have you finally arrived? At what point of â€œsuccessâ€ will you slow down and concentrate on the moment?
2.Â Not Developing Relationships As You Go. Life (and ministry) is all about relationships, people, and how we are all connected together. It took me until my adult life to realize the people who have been in my life werenâ€™t just there (as trees in a landscape)â€“ they were there for me to develop meaningful relationships with.
In our self-centered lives we tend to view people as ways to get us to where we want to go; they become tools we use to help us advance in our goals, â€œvisionsâ€, or careers. If they canâ€™t be of help to us, we tend to marginalize them out of our lives.Â This is a huge mistake. Â Even if you perceive that a person will be in your life for a short period of time, you still should make an effort to get to know them, love them, befriend them, and invest your life in theirs. Who knows where it might lead and what the future holds.
3. Â Not Enjoying the Moment. There are moments in my kidâ€™s lives that I will always treasure.Â I have loved leading Joshua and Caleb in Cub Scouts, having lunch with Isaac when I pick him up after Pre-School, or doing Hannah-Graceâ€™s hair for a dance recital when her mother had to go out of town.
It sounds clichÃ©, but â€œstop to smell the roses.â€ Our kids are only in their â€œtransitionâ€ for a moment and then they move on to something else. Each day is a gift, and each new change is an opportunity to keep a great relationship, start over, or make things right.
Transitions cause stress in our lives. We feel the need to make decisions, and our focus can become completely consumed by this need to take some action, make a final decision, or the feeling to just do something. Often times we are not sure of what we need to do, and we know this requires us to wait. In that time of stress, life still moves on, it doesnâ€™t stop because you are feeling introspective.
Ministry involves â€œemotional work.â€ Like nurses or police officers, pastors regularly engage in activities as a part of their day-to-day responsibilities where they must deal with other peopleâ€™s problems, emotions, and behavior.Â They are expected to express love, compassion, emotion, or they are expected to reserve that emotion, to be professionally distant and to control it all like a switch.
So as the years go by, if we are not careful, our emotion switch gets stuck or even broken. Numbness and callousness sets in like a whiteout in the winter. We stop feeling, caring, and everything goes on autopilot. We are so â€œprofessionalâ€ that we can fool everyone, even ourselves.
But we are numb on the inside, and we miss those moments of transitions that our kidâ€™s need for us to â€œbe there.â€ If you are at this point, and you are not able to enjoy â€œthe momentâ€ then stop what you are doing, take a break, pray, and focus on doing whatever it takes to regain your sense of feeling. One of the ways that I have found to manage that â€œprofessional numbnessâ€ is to focus on today. I donâ€™t know what God has in store for me in the future, but today I have responsibilities, children who need a dad, a wife that needs a husband, a church that is looking to me to lead in the area of â€œchildren and family.â€ If I can focus on that, and only that, then I can fend off the feeling of paralysis by analysis.