Transition and Table

Josh Kerr —  May 20, 2014

Photo Mar 02, 5 54 52 PMMy seminary career is nearly over.  All work has been turned in, and I picked up my cap and gown this morning.  In a month or so, we will pack up our house, say farewell to friends here, and begin the process of forging new relationships in our new home.  Not only will we be moving and making new friends, I will have the additional task of taking on the role of pastor for the first time.  This is a lot of transition, and transition is hard.

So much transition at once can be overwhelming at times.  I am constantly bombarded with questions about housing, employment, childcare, preaching every week, session meetings, transportation, wall colors, budgets, bills, travel, moving companies, finding a new doctor, meeting new people, remembering new people’s names, and on, and on, and on.  Did I mention preaching every week?

Transition is hard.

No matter how hard I work to answer all of these questions, many more will remain.  Often the response to such a situation is anxiety or anger.  Instead of enjoying my final days as a part of this community, I‘ll just barricade myself in my office and grind away on the mountains of work I have.  There are mortgage papers to sign and sermons to plan.  It is time to turn the page on this place and these people and turn my eyes towards Jerusalem (APTS people will get that joke).  If I’ve not slept much recently, this is how I tend to feel.

Transition is hard.

When I worked at summer camp, the end of the camp season was an interesting time to watch how staff members related to one another.  After living and working in very close community all summer, the staff was faced with the anxiety of their coming transition back to the “real world.”  Some would draw away from the community and isolate themselves to soften the heartache of separation.  Others would cultivate conflict.  After all, it is easier to say goodbye when you are angry at someone.  Others would leave late at night or early in the morning in order to avoid that final farewell and hug.  It happened staff after staff, season after season, year after year.

Transition is hard.

It is always hard.  When we take a step into a new phase of our lives, we inevitably find one foot in our “old” life and the other in our “new” life.  For days, weeks, even months, we live in two worlds, and it is just more than our finite minds and hearts can handle comfortably.

As I pondered how members of a Christian community should handle the stress of transition, there was one story that came to mind: the Last Supper. Faced with what must have been the scariest and most overwhelming transition of his life, what did Jesus do to close his time with the disciples?  He took bread, gave thanks, broke it, and shared it with his friends.  He and his companions sat around a big table with food and drink.  While the gospels are brief in their accounts of the conversation, I imagine that they shared stories, laughed, and felt a strong sense of mutual love.  Perhaps this is a good model for all of us as we handle the transitions of our lives.

Transition is hard, but I hope I can close this chapter and open the next with a big table, good food and drink, and a sense of mutual love and thanksgiving for the time we have spent or will spend together.

Josh Kerr

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Josh is pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Perry, OK and completed his seminary studies at Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary. He is a father, husband, and hater of cliches.