Friday, August 24, 2007

The Anguish That Accompanies Moving

At my age I should really know better...

In just over a week from now I will be repeating in reverse the journey that we as a family took thirty-one years ago -- a half a lifetime away for me. That is, I will be moving back across the Atlantic Ocean to the new ministry that God has in mind for us in Cambridge, England. There is a deep confidence that we are following the Lord's leading and doing his will, but the same pain of letting go of where I am has returned. I had not really expected this.

While I was working hard in the parish, and even in the first week since I finished my pastoral duties, my emotions remained amazingly placid, but in these last few days as the clock ticks, as realtors swarm over the house, as we are warned that we are being caught in the credit crunch when it comes to selling our home, as I seek to get plans in order on the other side of the water, and so on, and so on, I find myself subject to occasional emotional meltdowns.

Do I really want to do this, I find myself asking, and my head says one thing while portions of my heart say something else. Certainly, because it demands that my wife and I live apart on either side of that vast expanse of water for several months, I am not looking forward to the separation one little bit.

"This is much too difficult," I complain, especially when in addition to all else I, in effect, see myself letting go of the stuff that has surrounded me and comforted me for these many years. But I need to gird myself up because part of this exercise is discovering just how much I have been possessed by my possessions, and now must deliberately let them go. In a way my system is being flushed out, but like an enema, there is no reason I should enjoy it!

Moving is almost always a foretaste of hell, but moving back across the Ocean has miseries that are unique. Among them are the dreams and nightmares that I have been living through during the hours of darkness. I hardly remember the content of the ones that assailed me last night, but my consciousness is still living with the feelings that have stuck to everything like so much mud and debris after I woke up and lay trying to work out whether it was the dreams or my sweaty tossing body which were the genuine reality.

It is ironic that when we left England in 1976 the landscape was brown and parched as a result of a long, hot summer, and one of the severest droughts then on record. While the Midwest struggles with too much water, we in the Midsouth are living with endless days of searing heat, 100 degree temperatures, and weeks and weeks since we saw even the whisper of rain. The landscape here is brown and parched, too, and as I look out of the window at the results of the endless sunshine that is how my heart feels.

I thought that I would make this hop across the Pond with ease, but that is far from the case. I am looking forward to the new challenges awaiting me at Ridley Hall, but my psyche has caught up with me and is reminding me that whenever we follow God's dream for our lives we are not necessarily going to experience all sweetness and light. Grieving for and letting go of what has been is part of the process of moving forward into God's providence for the rest of our days.

While it is exciting that at this stage in my life God should entrust to me a challenge that a person half my age would relish, I had under-estimated the angst that accompanies the letting go of the old in order to move forward to the new. I am glad that my latter years will be spent fruitfully in the service of the One who has redeemed me, but I have been as conditioned as anyone else in this cosseted age to believe that the Almighty will dish up life for me sugar-coated and drenched in honey.

While digging around in the attic yesterday and packing endless boxes I came across a little book of Victorian devotions and spiritual bon mots. This morning while doing my devotions I treated myself to a few minutes in its pages. Some of the little sayings and texts made me shudder, I have to confess, but others are helpful, bolstering me up in times like these.

For example, Isaac Pennington (whoever he was) wrote, "Prize inward exercises, griefs, and troubles; and let faith and patience have their perfect work in them." Another was by M. De Molinos, who said "Thou art never at any time nearer to God than when under tribulation; which He permits for the purification and beautifying of thy soul."

On the same page is this quote from Scripture, "Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful until death, and I will give thee a crown of life" (Rev. 2:10).

I guess that is what sums the turmoils of this life up and puts them in perspective. We go through none of this for personal aggrandizement, but because we are seeking to be faithful servants of the living God. Faithfulness is the name of the game, whatever the challenges that are before us.


Life Long Learner said...

We're all going to miss you. God Speed as you carry on. Good to have seen you on the mountain. Ed Mikrut

Anonymous said...

Surely this doesn't mean the end of the Kew Continuum? I couldn't bear it. Your column has been such a source of enjoyment to me ever since discovered it, too recently alas. Tell me I mustn't now delete it from my list of "Favorites". I wish you God speed and God bless.

Richard Kew said...

No, I will continue to blog. I suspect some of the substance of this place will alter a little, but nonetheless we will keep it going

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

If I were moving purely for my employer/boss or a friend, I would expect some help at least in the physical and financial burdens that
would arise.
As your God appears to be contributing nothing in these areas,
surely this shows what a poor boss/friend he really is.