This past weekend, I witnessed my niece, Abby, graduate from high school. A mix of relief, satisfaction and excitement of what’s to come shone in her eyes. One chapter in her life has closed; a new chapter is about to open. New experiences await as she heads to college in a mere seven weeks. These encounters will both delight and test. And yet, at eighteen, breaking out of one’s shell is necessary. Adventure calls. There is no alternative than to answer the summons.
As time turns, adventure subsides. We settle in, hoping for day after day of calm. We are page turners of our lives, often deciding for ourselves when the next chapter begins. Yet, as in any good story, we have moments where a twist will come with no warning. There was no planning on our part and, still, a chapter of our lives is closing. At times this closing is relief. Other times we are not ready to turn the page. Sadness persists. We find ourselves carrying the old chapter, mentioning it in conversation. Grieving in process. We can’t fathom life in a new way.
In February, the final lines in a sweet chapter of my life were being written. I was unaware. It began with a phone call from my sister mentioning her and her husband’s plans to move back to New York. A few weeks later, I sat across from my dear friend and mentor, Kristen, as she confirmed her decision to take a new job across the country in California. Only a few weeks later, we received news of our neighbors heading to Colorado.
My mind began playing reels of past times. I would catch myself with tears in my eyes as I envisioned the future without these friends and family nearby. I found myself wrestling with a range of emotion, not being able to envision my future a different way. But, time has a way of marching forward.
Over the last month, our family has said “goodbye” to these significant people in our lives. Goodbyes are never easy. I want to cling to the old chapter, not turning the page. I have found comfort by thinking of the disciples when Jesus told them he was to leave them.
“At this, some of his disciples said to one another, “What does he mean by saying, ‘In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me,’ and ‘Because I am going to the Father’?” They kept asking, “What does he mean by ‘a little while’? We don’t understand what he is saying.” – John 16:17-18
The disciples didn’t like goodbye either. A mention of change left them confused. Their understanding was ruffled. The disciples, too, wanted to relive former days. They wanted to cling to Jesus’ bodily presence among them.
Yet, in looking closer at the Bible, we see it is filled with stories of travel. Adam and Eve thrust from the Garden of Eden. Abraham left all he knew in faith and obedience to follow God’s directive. Joseph sold and delivered to Egypt. Moses took the extended route through the desert to head towards the Promised Land. Ruth left Moab to find Bethlehem with her mother-in-law. Peter left his fishing net behind to follow Christ. Saul walked the road to Damascus. In these stories of travel, we find there is always momentum forward. One chapter closes and we find in the turning of the page, new life awaits.
The disciples eventually turned the page. I find solace in their page being turned slowly. Jesus, first, affirmed them and their grief. He didn’t try to fix them. And, the disciples didn’t immediately understand Christ’s leaving. Even upon resurrection, there was still confusion. But then, the Holy Spirit came. They let go of the past to answer the call of the present. The disciples pressed on.
The example of pressing on whispers into my life, “You, too can press forward towards new life”. While I still have days of sadness for what I have lost in the relationship of friends and family nearby; I continue to walk, eyes fixed on Christ, knowing there is a a new chapter awaiting. There is always a hello around the corner. Hello to a new way of being and seeing in the world. Adventure calls. There is no alternative than to answer the summons of the present.
“But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” – Phillippians 3:13(b)-14
What Christ adventure is calling you to press on?
With a friend:
When has been a time in your life where you have clung to old ways? What helped you release it to move forward?
With a child:
What is one item you LOVE to take on a trip with you? Why? Is there anything you like/dislike about going on a trip?