While I most often hear these words of Paul’s in the context of a celebration and blessing of a marriage, these words resonated with me these past two weeks. I have been on a pilgrimage of sorts, heading west (the easter(n) pilgrim heading west?), getting back to the roots of my calling, to the roots of my essence. I have returned, unhindered, to ministry with youth and young adults, and returned home to spend some much needed time with my parents.
I have been told by many people numerous times and in different ways over the years, that when you return to something, it is never ever the same. This particular sojourn was no different. It seems to me that the circumstances I faced in this return journey focused on confusion: clarity and indecision; certainty and obscurity.
I returned to ministry with youth and young adults, not in a former role as a participant or junior leader, but with the responsibility for coordination and vision for youth ministry opportunities with a team of ministry professionals. It seemed to me as if I were returning, and instead of seeing in a mirror, dimly, I was seeing the mirror from the other side. I was experiencing the wealth and beauty of a team with minds, wisdom, and spirit, as it grappled with the expectation of how youth, young adults, and youth leaders might be transformed. Most often in my past I had been the recipient of such planning and preparation. Now all is turned once again. Foolishly I imagined the process and the delivery would be clear, concise, unhindered. Now I realize that with each step there are careful considerations, much prayer, and much humility as a team works together.
I also returned home. I returned home to a former parish, to my first team in professional ministry, and to my parents and extended family. With these types of encounters, for me there is much celebration, much lament, and much reflection. I saw faces, encountered old friends, and got caught up with the changes of a faith community over the past dozen years. There are new faces and new faces of ministry; there is a new story unfolding, and there are those that haven’t continued this journey for they have entered into the nearer presence of God. Amid the old memories, the laughter and the tears I realized that my past is more hazy as I try to look back and remember. Names are elusive, ministry projects and encounters are fading. I have been in ministry longer, but I seem to be forgetting all the more.
With my return to my parents and family, all is different, yet familiar. The memories are common, the love is deep. The roles of parent and child are transforming, life is taking different turns as I step into different encounters as we all age. The conversations, the stories, the hugs and the kisses seem to mean so much more. There is a more intentional encounter that I am fostering, for in truth I do not wish for transformation. I wish for my reality to remain clear and untouched so that I may look into this mirror, look face to face, all my days.
I came face to face with the reality that this sojourn I had undertaken has been all my life in the making. One quick trip has highlighted and accentuated the impact that time has, and the weight of learning and wisdom that a person receives when separated over time and space. The things so long ago I had thought were cloudy and hazy in the distance are now in great focus in my present. The pieces that seemed so clear long ago are hazy and foggy as I step with trepidation into the future. I change; others change around me. There is the potential for fear, anxiety, loss, grief, happiness; so much more in the changing.
Through this brief trek I have had opportunities for remembrance and homecoming. In each of these experiences, I am transformed once again, realizing the impact of time, and the impact of God’s presence in my communities of faith: I thank God that my journey brings me to greater confusion: I rejoice that my perceived fogginess and clarity are forever surrounded by the love and grace of God.