On December 19, 2004, I awoke around 5 am from an extremely vivid dream with a profound sense of sorrow and mourning. As I went throughout the house praying for my sleeping wife and children, a thought flashed through my mind — “This year will be a year of ‘good-bye’s.'” I don’t know if this was a prophetic message or what? But for an entire year, I don’t think a week passed without reflecting on this phrase.
I remember journaling my fears and anxieties when I first experienced this dream and the subsequent feelings it evoked. Would I be saying good-bye to someone I love? To my faith-community? To my dream of pastoring again? To my current job and friends at Asian Access? To my business partnership with my two closest friends? Would we be moving as a family? As I went through the people in my life that I could potentially say “good-bye” to, I realized how much “good-bye” would hurt. The years of 2003 and 2004 had already felt like I was recovering from devastating loss. It was difficult imagining losing more. A few months later, I discovered I had extremely high blood pressure. This brought my own health and mortality to the front of my thoughts. Would I be saying good-bye to my health or my family?
It is now a year since that dream. And in many ways, it has been a year of good-bye’s. I’ve had to say good-bye to two friends at my job. I’ve had to say good-bye to close friends in our faith-community as they decided it was time to pursue different goals. I’ve had to say a sorrowful good-bye to my oldest son’s childhood as he has entered young adulthood. I’ve had to say good-bye, and help my family say good-bye, to Debbie’s Uncle J.D., who died on Thanksgiving.
And a bit more difficult to describe, I feel I’ve said good-bye to internal stuff that had accumulated over years of professional ministry and the situations that led up to my leaving professional ministry. The inner compulsions for pastoral success are not as strong as they used to be. I’ve discovered that I have laid down dreams of being a significant influencer, a successful pastor, theologian, author, speaker or some other professional spiritual leader. The feelings of failure for leaving ministry and of being a “statistic” are fading away. I am more content simply being me. And at an even deeper level, I don’t feel wounded anymore. The regular bouts of mild depression have also faded away.
In the midst of the loss, there is a sharpening clarity. As a family, we were presented with a couple of potential opportunities to move from our local area in order to accept a senior pastor position. But in the midst of this, God spoke very clearly that we were to stay close to our family and friends. God showed Debbie and me that our relationships with our families and our dear friends in our community and neighborhood were of the utmost value. And I am so glad we decided to listen to God’s wisdom.
I’m glad that our children were able to spend quality time with Uncle J.D. before he died. They saw a side of him that many people didn’t. They will always have cherished memories of him. And I think they will value being part of people’s lives who are typically marginalized in society because of age or illness.
Also, by staying local, my two older kids have been able to participate in a Jr. high school youth group at a friend’s church. Debbie and I wanted our kids to be part of a peer-group that would allow them to worship, learn and serve with kids their age. This has allowed our family to enjoy corporate worship on occasional Sundays, something we have missed the last couple of years.
I have also fallen in deeper love with my friends at Asian Access. I love working with them. They are such a wonderful group of people to work alongside, each person uniquely and consistently modeling Christ day in and day out. And they have valued and utilized my pastoral experience and gifting. The last two years have been very healing for me.
I have also enjoyed this year in our wedding video business. Mark and David are great guys to work with and our product and service have matured this year. I am even more proud and excited of what we offer.
Finally, this year has developed deeper friendships in our faith-community. I don’t think I have ever had such close friends while being in professional ministry. Every week, I watch my kids interacting with our community’s members. My friends are their friends! For me, this is priceless. For example, this past Thursday, we had a Christmas party. I was so thrilled to watch my kids participating as equal members of the group. This is just one of many examples during this past year.
And I am looking forward to a new year of opportunities to care for one another, follow Christ together and serve our world in small and simple ways.
So, 2005 has been a year of good-bye’s. But with some of the pain has also come much-needed personal clarity, further healing and an ever-deepening love for those in our lives.