Maybe it's because I'm getting older, maybe it's because two of my last pastoral acts at FBCG were a funeral and 6 baptisms, but finishing an Interim feels a lot like the old spiritual discipline of meditating on your own death.
Early Christian monks were taught to meditate on their own deaths as a means of putting things in perspective. An Interim does a lot of the same things. Because it's usually short (6 months to 36 months) you don't get to pretend that things stay the same. The boundaries of time are right there in your face all the time. If you're going to accomplish something, change something, help someone...you'd better do it now; you might not get another chance.
When you're an Interim, you have had all these experiences: some wonderful, some not so much. Some incredibly joyous, others heartrending. And it always feels like the time is too short...much like I imagine it is to know you're dying. There's so much you still want to do and say; but time is running out-and it will run out-before you've done and said it all.
When you're an Interim, you don't always know what's coming next. When it's over, you haven't resigned to take a new call or to retire, you've just finished your task. Now what? Often you don't know. You trust that God has a plan, that there is something "after," but you sure wish God would show his/her hand just a little more....kind of like dying.
So where does Baptism fit in? The first thing that can be said is that in our Baptist tradition Baptism is a kind of dying: "buried with Christ in baptism, raised to walk in newness of life." But it's also a beginning. The fact that the last 6 people I baptized were members of the First Baptist youth group is a reminder that life goes on. These young people are beginning their Christian pilgrimage. It is a life long journey. During it they would do well to remember the same things that an Interim does: if you're going to accomplish something in your faith, change something in your life, help someone in Jesus name....do it now. Nothing is guaranteed. Though you don't always know what is coming next, trust that God does, and God will not forsake you.
My kids would say that "Maudlin Man" is about to make an appearance. But this isn't my intention. My time at FBCG is ending. It fills me with sadness and joy. I love this congregation and I will carry it with me in heart and memory forever (literally, I believe I will carry the love from this experience into eternity). I have few regrets, but I have some. Mostly though, I have gratitude. I will thank God every time I remember this congregation.
My goals moving forward are these: remember in joy; own my sadness; ask forgiveness for my failures; forgive any who have hurt me; bless God's future for them; trust God's future for me; bless God's name in it all; and let go.
Life as an Interim; pretty good practice for dying....and living.