To my dear friend on your first day on the job,
I can only imagine how it felt this morning as you pulled up to the church with two kids in the back. Dropping them off with the “goodbyes” and the nervous “be a good listener” before you walked those hallways and stairwells to your office on your first day as senior pastor. I’m sure a beaded necklace adorned your chest and a smile spread brightly and permanently across your face as you walked through offices giving your usual good mornings. They were always a staple in my life for the past six years. I’m glad a new crop of people can start their day with your abundant welcome.
After pleasantries, you arrive at the much-anticipated moment. The door closes and you sit at your empty desk. The job description suddenly becomes less a document of certainty and more a question of discernment of the logistics. The massive office must have felt so foreign after living in your closet-turned-office that people passed on the way to the restroom each day. The desk and seating area must have felt so ominous and expectant.
By the time we FaceTimed this afternoon, your face spoke of the hesitant courage within as you had made it through the tenderness the day required so far. You showed us the rock that had anchored your desk this morning.
“Courage” written in silver marker.
It is the rock that you had signed at our February leadership retreat back before the news of your new job was even public. The three of us had each written the same word. We spoke it one after another as we stepped forward to add it to the altar… courage.
Now miles between us, courage has led the way and the tenderness of it all overwhelms me as the day comes to a close.
Your tenderness breaks my heart, as I can no longer care for you the way I used to. I used to be able to sit in your office on the black chair and listen. I used to be able to drop flowers by during especially tough days. I used to be able to read your smiles amidst the working of our days, to be able to pop my head in to check in, or share glances in meetings. I used to be able to give Josh the pat on the shoulder that said, “thank you for loving and taking good care of this friend of mine.” I used to be able pick up that little man and share with him a monster truck from our overflowing diaper bag. I used to be able to cradle baby girl and bounce her in the crook of my arms while you managed to take on the world. They were small tangible tokens that exemplified the ways friendship blurs to family. Your tenderness reminds me of the brutal truth that change breaks our hearts, as we have to let go of these daily acts of friendship shared.
Your tenderness warms my heart for I know that you are right where you need to be. You have offered up your life, your gifts, your family to God whose dreams for the world are greater than we could ever imagine. They are ones that always come through tender courage. Your tenderness reminds me of the brave woman you are as you trust in life’s deep worth that is found in plumbing the depths of calling and traveling the widths of God’s reach.
Your tenderness connects with the tenderness we feel in your absence. Renee’s belly is growing after all this time. A baby girl is rolling around and waiting to change our lives. Work is changing and adapting amidst the wake that comes after a beloved peer and minister leaves. Your tenderness reminds me that our friendship is not bound by space or time. Your tenderness reminds me to have courage.
Time keeps passing and life unravels before us all.
Perhaps the courage comes not from strength but from the tenderness. So close to the dark vast open space where creation waits to begin, tender courage moves us forward with the truth that abides within – that life’s worth comes not in holding on to all that has been but in letting go in order that our hands might be able to take part in the glory yet to be revealed.
So with no ability to come to you this day, I simply pause and give thanks for you. I pour out my words of admiration and respect for your tender courage. I give thanks for your beloved whose company you keep and whose presence grounds you. I give thanks for those two little ones whose demands, needs, and delights grant hope beyond it all.
As this Monday evening comes to a close, I give thanks for friendship, for the space to remember all that has been, and for tender courage that allows the future to unfold.
Love from your quails in the bluegrass cheering you on.