MAY THE ROAD RISE TO MEET YOU
I'm struggling with forgiveness this week. Not forgiveness of others, but rather, the hard kind: Forgiving myself.
The problem is, my debts of gratitude and devotion run deep. I owe so much to so many in this remarkable congregation I've been blessed to pastor for 15 years. So many First Baptist folk, now dear friends, have opened their hearts, their homes, their lives to me in ways that changed me forever. The stories they told, the gifts they gave, the hospitality they offered, the encouragement they lavished, the truths they spoke, the tears they shed, all molded the clay of my life in poignant and powerful ways. The person and pastor I am were forever shaped for the better by my sojourn among some of God's choicest saints at the top of Poplar.
Such debts of gratitude and devotion cannot be repaid, but they can and should be acknowledged. In my fantasy about that, I sit down, one by one, with fellow travelers in the journey with Jesus, with whom I'm shared this stretch of road. We drink hot coffee or a coke together, share a pastry or some nachos, and talk about old times. One story sparks another, we laugh and maybe cry, and then during a sweet embrace, look one another in the eye and say, "Thank you" and "I love you." Then we part company in the assurance of the benediction we sang so many Sundays, "May the road rise to meet you . . ."
Alas, it is not to be. The brief time between my resignation and this Sunday, my last, flew by at warp speed. And preparing for a smooth transition after I'm gone proved more time-consuming than I anticipated. I really didn't realize how big a job I had until I started trying to give it away. Meanwhile, the house we need to put on the market has received little attention as Bambi and I have been swamped, emotionally and otherwise, by the daunting work of saying "Goodbye." Soon, as in Monday, we really must turn our full attention to getting ready for the next chapter of our life and ministry.
So forgive me for not being able to spend the quality, focused time with each of you who meant so much during the past 15 years. Maybe we will have that opportunity farther down the road, if not in this life, then surely in the next. In fact, I've begun to think that's why heaven lasts forever. It will take that long to celebrate with one another (with coffee, or coke, or even something better!) all the surprising and wonderful ways our lives intersected and became the sinewy vines of grace that supported and grew us in the way of Jesus.
Yes, I'm trying to forgive myself for not having the time to say a very personal "thank you" to so many who have left their fingerprints on my soul. Just know that God knows, and I know, how very special you are.