All changes are more or less tinged with melancholy,
for what we are leaving behind is part of ourselves. –Amelia Barr
The year was 1996 and we had just packed up a u-haul truck and were leaving the wonderful state of California for the state of Texas. We had a job that had ended and needed to relocate. A good friend of ours, who had just relocated herself to Texas, called us about an opening at the church she worked at and thankfully, within a couple of weeks we were hired and on our way to a place we were unfamiliar with.
I had so many mixed emotions about the move, but fear was probably the one that stands out the most in my mind. I’ll never forget crossing the state line between California into Arizona on our way to Texas. I looked back the rear mirror, tears running down my face and saw the last California palm tree I would see for many years to come. That image is imprinted in my mind so deeply, that still today I get nostalgic thinking about it. The truth is that leaving California was hard because it symbolized the end of an era for us, and the beginning of an uncertain future.
Though neither my husband nor I were natives of California, the state was like home to us in many ways. For one thing, that is where we began our college career. It is where we met, where our children were born, where we began our ministry, and where I learned how to drive, among other things. There were many “firsts” represented in our time there, which made our exit all the more bittersweet.
Last night, a friend of mine was informing his leadership group that it was time for him to move on. As he spoke, he became very emotional and what I found interesting was the fact that he repeatedly said; “This is a good thing, I don’t know why I’m crying! I promise this is a good thing!” It immediately took me back to that image of the palm tree waiving us goodbye. Just like my friend, I knew it was a good move, and yet I felt conflicted inside.
Leaving is sometimes necessary to allow for growth to take place or in order to build character in a person. That doesn’t mean the process is easy to navigate but sometimes leaving is necessary when a relationship is unhealthy, when you’re stuck in a job that limits your creativity, or if your assignment was temporary. People leave for all kids of reasons and obviously not all are bad. Leaving is hard because it involves feelings. Take for instance, having to say goodbye, and then mix that with a dose of fear of the unknown and the anxiety of having to start all over again, and you may have put together a recipe for either insanity or a bad migraine.
Some years back, I remember having to leave a job that I thought was going to kill me emotionally and physically. It was one of those jobs where you are hired to do one thing but end up wearing many hats. I had to work killer hours with very little appreciation, and no matter how hard I tried, my performance was never good enough. When it became obvious it was time to leave, I remember feeling so relieved and happy to be able to get out of that situation. However, once I drove off, I began to feel conflicted. Why? Because, although I knew it was a good decision, my comfort level had just been affected. That’s not to say I was comfortable working in that environment, but in time, I had learned to adjust and “deal” with it to the best of my ability.
The Bible talks about a man named Moses, who was hired by God to do one thing; to lead His people out of Egypt into the Promised Land. This was a huge task and although Moses wasn’t a perfect leader, he was able to move thousands of people out of Egypt and close enough where he could see the land. He was so close, and yet he was not allowed to go and posses the land. Joshua was chosen instead. When I read that story, I get mixed feelings because I imagine Moses feeling relieved to be done with such a high stress assignment, and yet I can’t help but wonder if he probably felt deep sadness because that assignment symbolized so much to him as a leader. Leaving is never easy; it doesn’t matter who you are or the reasons why you’re leaving.
In your personal journey, you will encounter many beginnings and many endings. The scriptures teach us in Ecclesiastes that for every season in life there is an appointed time. Personally, I don’t believe we are called to do one thing only for the rest of our lives. I believe we are gifted by God to do great things according to the needs around us. In other words, because needs are limitless, so the gifting abounds. God is wise and sees what we cannot see. The circumstances around us may change, but for every season in our lives one thing is certain; God’s purpose is eternal and flawless!
I suggest the following six steps to help navigate your leaving:
- Continue to pray earnestly (for favor and wisdom to successfully navigate the transition)
- Find moments to be alone and meditate on the word (nothing else will give you more clarity and bring you more peace)
- Keep yourself accountable to your mentors or someone older and wiser than you
- Calendar the date as soon as you have confirmation and begin preparations (don’t leave things to the last minute, this creates unwanted stress on what is already a very stressful situation, instead work towards the set date)
- Don’t burn any bridges (regardless of the circumstances for your departure, be sure to honor the relationships you leave behind)
- Communicate with your family (If you have a spouse and/or children) about the plans thoroughly. Arrange family meetings and bring it up in casual conversations over a meal or during a family activity (Remember you are not the only one affected by the move). Give your family an opportunity to voice their feelings and concerns.
My prayer is for all of you standing at a crossroads in your life. For those who find themselves packing bags once again I say, Peace! You may already have direction or perhaps you still wait for signs. I want to leave you with excerpts from a couple of verses found in John 14: 25-27; 29-31 (The Message Translation).
25-27“I’m telling you these things while I’m still living with you. The Friend, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send at my request, will make everything plain to you. He will remind you of all the things I have told you. I’m leaving you well and whole. That’s my parting gift to you. Peace. I don’t leave you the way you’re used to being left—feeling abandoned, bereft. So don’t be upset. Don’t be distraught.
29-31“I’ve told you this ahead of time, before it happens, so that when it does happen, the confirmation will deepen your belief in me. …I am carrying out my Father’s instructions right down to the last detail.
“Get up. Let’s go. It’s time to leave here.”