We imagine, as we look to the future, that a time will soon come when we can coast. When we can take it easy and things will work out. When things will settle down. Of all times, one might reasonably expect such an experience during a sabbatical, being designed for rest, recovery, and repose–a taste of serenity.
But how often has that worked out for you? Not so often for me, no matter how much planning and structure I marshal toward breezing along. The wisdom of Proverbs (16.1) says, “The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.” You already know my sabbatical has veered in directions I did not expect.
But first let thank you for my sabbatical, for the chance to find the deep rest of stepping outside my routine that will empower me to serve you in weeks and months ahead. You made that possible, and I will draw upon those storehouses.
Also, Cecile and I were able to travel to some fabulous places. A week in France, from Aix-en-Provence to Burgundy, allowed us to see family and friends, to let Cecile to dig into mourning the mother she’d lost the month before by being with her contemporaries. A week in Spain with close friends—a villa atop a mountain overlooking the Mediterranean—was the big “ahh” we sorely needed and sought.
Trips to Detroit, North Carolina, Martha’s Vineyard, and Washington D.C. were also balm for the soul. In D.C, for example, I spent the day with Dr. Paul Smith (remember Racial Reconciliation Sunday?). He showed me around the African-American Museum, and he was understandably fluent in many of its rich stories.
But the months were also pockmarked by loss. I lost my step-father, Wally, just before leaving, as you know. My mother, Margaret, became lost afterward. Apart from her dementia, and being unable to cope at home, she couldn’t find a reason to live. We don’t know what we have till it’s gone, do we? She died four months to the day after Wally died. Cecile lost her mother Jacqueline between the losses of Wally and Margaret. We also lost my Aunt Louise in Virginia. Right now, I look to fly to Tampa in a few hours where tomorrow I will memorialize my mother, my toughest service ever. I mean, how do you sum up a life who has given you life?
Gary’s news of moving to Noroton Presbyterian hit me hard, as I am sure it did you. He and I have discussed it since May. From the start, I knew his heart was no longer with us, but elsewhere. That was all I needed to know before looking to the future. I know many of you are disappointed, hurt, and confused, as I am. We will work through that together, and thank Gary for the years he did give us.
I believe in our future as FCC. I look with eagerness and zest to what lies ahead.
I am confident about our future because I know what we have built together is not about any one person, including me. I am teeming with energy, ideas, and goals. I’m not going anywhere but look forward to sharing the journey awaiting us. Let me go take care of my family and I will be back in my office this Monday. Will you take my hand and walk with me through the sorrows and joys life always brings?