The last few weeks have felt largely surreal. I'm not in South Africa anymore, and it's still hard to take in the fact that I'm not returning. As I said goodbyes, person after person asked me when I'd be back. I reassured many friends that I'll visit, and I've left and returned enough times that it seems I'll be headed back before too long. But in my brain I know this is the end of an era (even if my heart hasn't absorbed it yet). I'm moving on. I don't know into what, and that may be part of why the leaving is still so surreal.
After leaving South Africa, I spent a week in Malaysia and then one in Thailand. My time in Malaysia was at first full of reunions--many friends I hadn't seen in months or years were gathered in one place as part of the CRM Worldwide Conference. As the week came to a close, the reality of saying goodbyes to those friends, as well as the reality that I was leaving CRM, began to sink in.
The day the conference ended, I took a taxi to a ferry to a taxi to a train... and on that overnight train across Malaysia, I had one of those moments where time and place and music and life converge. I was traveling at high speeds away from the ending of something good, and heading into new travels in another country. The lights were out in the train compartment, I was tucked into my little bunk listening to my iPod, and Andrew Osenga's song "Photograph" was playing:
"...so take a photograph
if you're wanting this to last
'cause you can try the best you can
but God knows, it's about to end."
For the last few months, I've been holding on to the idea of continuing in full-time international vocational ministry. I've wanted this season of my life to last. I've explored 9 teams in 6 different cities (some more thoroughly than others). None of these opportunities have worked out: I've been turned down, referred elsewhere, it's been the wrong time, it hasn't fit, or it just hasn't felt right.
Acts 16:6-10 was a passage I spent a lot of time with in October and November, when I decided God was leading me out of NieuCommunities and into something new. At the time, I was struck by the way Paul & the apostles tried to go several places, and the Holy Spirit prevented them--literally kept them from going where they thought they were supposed to go. There's been an element of that in my last 8 months. And so, I've been letting go. The CRM conference in many ways marked the end of an era, as well as a letting go of this form of ministry for the next season of my life. That night in the train--however belatedly--was a final acknowledgment that "it's about to end." But also: that it was good. And that the ending of it is also good.
The song ends with the repeated lines: "I don't know where I'm going / but I know that you'll be there." Sometimes I'm okay with the not knowing, and other times not so much. It comes and goes. But I'm confident that there is another era in store for me, and that God will be there, as he has been so profoundly all along.
Writings I've relatedly been reading:
Arriving Back in KC
When Endings Come