So we’re losing another great Associate Rector and gaining still another great Associate Rector. We’ve done both more than a few times over the years and it’s a rhythm we’re becoming used to. This time that saying goodbye and hello is taking place, not one before the other but both at the same time. Daniel Strandlund will leave us at the end of June to move to Austin so that Lucy can attend seminary. Jamie Osborne and his family (Lauren, Rowan, and Phoebe) begin officially with us on July 1 but they have already moved to town and are getting accustomed to things here. Each day I am getting to see each of these two gifted young men and being allowed to live into the goodbye and the hello simultaneously.
The timing of these two events has put me in the mind of transitions. Sometimes transitions are very obvious. We may move to another house or city. We may graduate and take a job. We may change jobs. Marriages sometimes end. Sometimes we meet someone brand new and find ourselves pursuing a relationship. Loved ones die. New babies are born. In some ways those transitions are so big that they kind of take care of themselves. They bring enough pain and struggle, or excitement and energy, that we more or less watch ourselves get changed. When Mary Ward was in labor, I remember watching the monitor which was showing the strength of the contractions. There’s a point in all that called transition labor. Ready or not, it’s coming. Not paying attention isn’t really an option.
Other transitions are more subtle and occur often without our acknowledgement. Every day things are ending and beginning. How much of that do we take in and pay attention to? How much of that do we ignore? There are certain things, like physical health or relationship health, that, if ignored, may well have dire repercussions. If I have some minor sorts of pain, I may just hope it gets better without realizing that I need medical attention. I may see little signs that my spouse is dissatisfied with how things are between us but dismiss it as irritability instead of asking her how we might address things together. Either of these actions might make life much more difficult than if I noticed the little things and acted on them.
Other transitions might not have such serious effects but fall into the category of missed opportunities. There are many offerings in a given day that I just may pass up without ever seeing. If you were to bring me a series of gifts and I were never to unwrap any of them, I would never be able to receive the gifts you have gone to the trouble of giving me. I might just think that there was nothing particularly special about you. Or I might develop a low grade resentment thinking you don’t care much about me.
“People are no damn good,” you’ve probably heard me say. We do some mighty crummy things to ourselves and others. “People are damn lazy,” I might add. The main reason we pass up the various opportunities in a given day is because we just don’t exert the necessary effort. We zone out, we repress, we deny, we overlook. It’s just easier to stay right where I am and pretend things are fine. I want them to be fine but I am scared of the work that might be involved with becoming better. Laziness certainly has its roots in fear.
Awareness takes concerted effort. It’s pretty simple to start and end your day with a period of quiet reflection but most say they’re really too busy for such. It’s easier to distract ourselves with activity, or food or drink, screen time, 24 hour news, volunteer work, or any number of things than it is to practice listening to that still small voice that speaks to every one of us. “God never speaks to me,” we might think. Yeah, we’re just too lazy to listen is more likely the answer.
Sometimes life just up and moves us. Most times, however, life invites us to move. What are the signs in your life that you’re ignoring? What are you being asked to say goodbye or hello to? God’s grace provides all the gifts we need but those gifts don’t always open themselves.
Robert C. Wisnewski, Jr.