Out of character, I’ve been pretty defensive lately, keeping my guard up with the people around me. Part of it is because there are a handful of students who have learned some of the tricks of the chaplaincy trade and they can now crack the toughest shell with ease (and I need to maintain my mysteriousness).
As she was working on worship bulletins, Carrie was nonchalantly talking with me, weaving her way through my defenses and she asking me the tough questions. We talked about my feelings (ugh) and she mentioned that I haven’t been my usual, happy self lately. I responded that I’m a bit behind in classwork…I’m tired of the school’s systems and unresponsiveness to problems…I’m weary of swings too far to the left and too far to the right…I’m feeling silenced because I’m stereotyped as the oppressor. I said I’m done with the whole school ‘thing’ and want to move on.
“Maybe you’re beginning to mourn the fact that you’re going to have to move on? Maybe you’re a little angry that you’re going to have to leave?”
A few weeks ago I had come up with the theme for May’s student newsletter – ‘Leaving’ – and I was looking forward to writing on that subject matter because I have some things I’d like to get off my chest! But as I think about it and the reflect on the conversation with my friend from earlier today, I’m realizing that she’s probably right – I’m mourning the fact that I’m going to be leaving. The truth is that I’m ready to go, but I’m not ready to say goodbye to these people. And I’m realizing that I’m not good at leaving.
I recall being in 4th or 5th grade and having to go to church with my parents outside of our ‘normal’ church time. It wasn’t rushed or an emergency, but it was still a serious moment. While not given all the details, I recall my parents telling me that the pastor might be leaving and the church was meeting to discuss it.
The adults met in the sanctuary and us kids went (unsupervised) to the gym to play. As the evening progressed, it began to sink in that if the pastor left, his daughter – my best friend – would have to leave as well. My heart dropped slowly through the evening, and I didn’t know how to process those feelings. I ended up using anger and frustration to express my sadness and heartbreak, and from then on I’ve been protective of leaving moments.
Leaving for college was disastrous. I intentionally have zero contact with any woman I’ve previously dated. I slowly let friendships die off if they – or I – move away. I’d rather cut off, cut out, or destroy any relationship than have to face the process of leaving gracefully.
I know that’s not a healthy way to live, and I think that’s why I’ve been wrestling with all kinds of feelings lately. I don’t want to be defensive, angry, and holding back my feelings for people – but it’s a whole lot easier than remaining attached and doing the work to maintain relationships. And it’s a whole lot easier than having to show my feelings and be vulnerable.
I don’t know how to leave gracefully.
I don’t know how to say goodbye to some relationships and foster others.
I don’t know how to acknowledge that I won’t see most of these people again.
I don’t know how I’ll manage to be in ministry without these talented, loving, Christ-like people by my side.
This hurts my soul…and raises my defenses.
help me to leave this place well.
let me humbly return.
guide my heart to the new
and bring me often to old.
much love. sheth.