“That’s a lot of vodka boxes,” she said.
Yes, yes it was.
In the weeks before this, Jessica and I had discerned that God was calling us to launch ClearView as a brand new church. After six wonderful years at Southern Hills, it was time to pack up my office and clear the way for whomever and whatever God has in mind for that group of his children next.
Jessica heard that liquor stores (not exactly our natural habitat) would give you really sturdy boxes for free, and so one Friday night a couple weeks ago we drove around to, I think, five different stores, taking every box we could find.
Packing up, at least for me, was an important ritual. I gave myself the freedom to linger over certain items as I came to them: the certificate of ordination the elders presented me with on July 3, 2004, printed materials that marked various milestones for the church or for me as a minister, encouraging notes that members had given me over the years (Thank you! Those mean more than you’ll ever know.), and even some less than encouraging notes I kept for one reason or another over the years. I would say whatever prayer was appropriate for each item and then place it into a box or into the trash.
Many hours after we started, Jessica (who did all the real work while I was “reliving the moments” like some character in a Hallmark movie) totaled it all up.
Six years of congregational ministry equals 68 vodka boxes of books, files, and knick-knacks.
Who knew, right?
Seminary taught me a lot, but where to get good boxes–it left me on my own for that.
Also, I don’t think seminary taught me about transitions like this, nor that it could have. I am sure that in more than one course we talked about pastoral care, ministerial transitions, and the importance of calling and discernment, etc, etc. But 68 boxes are sufficient to separate reality from theory.
Boxes like that are definitive, and what they say is this, “Your life will never be the same.”
That’s the hard part of change. The underside of starting something new and exciting is walking away from what’s familiar. Saying yes to something new means saying no to something else, and, because God is so good, often that something else is something very, very good.
The story of Israel begins in Genesis 12 when God comes to a man named Abram (not yet Abraham) and says, “Go to the land I will show you.” God invites Abram into His plans, His story. ‘Awesome’ doesn’t quite cover it.
But, actually, that’s the second part of what God says.
The first part is this, “Leave your country, your people, and your father’s household.”
The story of Israel begins with God asking a blessed man to walk away from those blessings. The pain of this loss is seen in the increasing levels of intimacy described:
“Abram, I want you to leave your nation…and your clan…and your family. Now go…”
The call to “Go” we like. The call to “Leave,” well that’s another matter.
One lesson Abram’s story teaches is that we celebrate God’s blessings in our lives by holding them loosely. Abram trusts God more than God’s prior blessings.
Closing the office door, we were also closing a chapter in our lives, a chapter where we had built so many great relationships and seen God at work in countless ways. Given that we were married only weeks before coming to Southern Hills, it was an even more important chapter: the first chapter of life that was “ours.”
But God is honored when we trust him and not his blessings. Sometimes that trust just looks like a bunch of vodka boxes.