I've been back at the church for about a week now. Memorial Day was good: the veterans did their thing pretty much right before the downpour started. I had a pretty productive week: visits, planning a baptism, back into the rhythm of sermon-writing, meetings. All of this was like putting on an old shoe: comfortable and natural.
On the other hand, I've been dealing with something. I resumed my practice of walking the sanctuary, and something was different. Probably the best explanation that I've come up with for what it was is this:
I've been here over 5 1/2 years.
Maybe that doesn't sound like much, but it's a big deal. I've never lived anywhere this long in my entire life. The previous record, held by the town in which I graduated high school, was 5 1/2 years, and my current context just surpassed that.
I do consider this a good thing. In fact, Coffeewife and I shared a bottle of champagne to mark it. There's a sense of stability that comes with such a milestone, the most that I've ever felt. We'll be here for a while yet. Coffeeson and his eventual sibling may come up through the school system here, if a pastor's family is capable of such a thing (and there are ways, which I have considered and am fairly committed to).
So this feels good. But I'd be lying if I told you that's all I've been feeling.
Part of me is also freaking out. I've never lived anywhere this long. Usually by this point, I've moved or will soon move on to the next thing. There's usually a culmination that happens, and then I go somewhere else. But this is open-ended...I'm at this church until we truly feel called not to be together any more. I don't graduate out of it, I don't check in with a bishop who says it's time to move, I can't point to any clear upcoming sign that says, "You will be finished here, and then you will go over there." There's nothing like that. I'm here until I'm not...whenever that is.
There is no next thing. There is no finish line. There is no culmination. Instead there's just the ongoing interaction with other people in their daily lives, the ongoing successes and sorrows that I have the privilege of sharing with people, the ongoing day-to-day stuff of church and family and neighbors and bass lessons and whatever else. There's always been a sense of temporariness about this in previous places: no matter how deep relationships go, eventually we move away from each other and need more creative methods to keep in touch. But in this case I'm still here, and we keep going.
Please understand that I'm not looking for a reason to leave. This is not what this is about at all. What I'm trying to get across right now is that this is a brand new experience and feeling for me, and I'm trying to understand it and live into it. I don't yet know how because I've never had to before.
I've been where I am for a significant amount of time, the longest so far. Last week, this reality hit me square in the face. And now I'm trying to figure out what it means.