A Detour From Regular Routines
On Memorial Day, my middle niece Jazmine graduates from high school! It’s hard to believe it’s her time to graduate. Where did the time go? It seems like it was just yesterday that I held her in the maternity ward on Christmas Day in 2000. As the first of two nieces born on Christmas Day (Gracelyn is 16), Jazz's graduation forces me to admit that I'm officially old finally.
It’s interesting that it took my niece’s graduation to make me finally acknowledge that I’m getting old and not my upcoming fiftieth birthday on December 23!
Other than being stubborn, I mean laser-focused, perhaps this new awareness hints at a higher spiritual truth: Change always causes denial and resistance, and someone or something outside of us has to help us to face a new reality.
Jazz’s upcoming graduation has forced me into seeing a reality that I’ve resisted. And if I’m honest, it has also forced me to acknowledge a sobering thought: She’s entering a new chapter in life that requires an unlearning of the old and learning new things. It'll be a double whammy of detours from both our regular routines.
I’m not alone. For many families, May is the month of starting new chapters. Kindergarten, high school, college, and graduate school graduations demand our attention throughout the month. Whether it’s reading about it on social media, and sending congratulations emojis or being detoured by graduation traffic from our driving routines, May signals a change for many people. Ok, so maybe there will not be a billionaire philanthropist ready to pay off a student’s debt, but it’s still an exciting and sobering time.
Officially graduation is called commencement, which ironically means “to begin,” and not to end. It seems odd to name a ceremony “beginning,” when it’s clear that students are completing their time on campus. Ending and beginnings are not just for students.
Though we don’t like to admit it, endings are a necessity as there’s a season to everything. Taken from the biblical book of Ecclesiastes, the message is clear: In life, there's a season for things to begin and end. Understanding the season for endings and beginnings is another way of talking about the gap between time: those “cross over” moments of change in life that causes a detour in our routine.
When I am in a hurry to go somewhere, I come across a detour, and it derails my entire plan. It may have happened to you as well. Detours are part of life. I discovered the painful truth about detours more profoundly four years ago when I had an unexpected detour in my routine.
I was an aspiring church planter who had left my position as a college senior-level administrator two years prior. I had done the exhausting work that leads up to launching a new church. I saw early successes in attendance, building a brand, and slowly making an impact in the local community. But all of this was before the detour. Like the months of detours caused by the 92 foot-section of I-85 collapsing from an intense fire, I had to find alternative routes.
On the Monday after Mother's Day, I met with my District Superintendent and the Conference Church Development Director to determine the sustainability of the church plant. During the meeting, it became clear to me, that I was headed towards a crash and needed to take an unwanted detour. Following a holy hunch, I decided to “pull the plug” to end the church before it got momentum. I was following a detour where there wasn’t an alternative route immediately mapped out. I had to “drive” my way through without a GPS on unknown roads.
It was hard to navigate the balancing act of physical dashboard measures for a new church (i.e., adding to your team, meeting and following up with adults about the vision of the church, and fundraising) and trying to let go your “baby” and travel into uncharted territory. Even hosting preview worship and service experiences that attracted 132 adults weren't enough to erase the handwriting on the wall.
In hindsight, I believe that there are some key indicators that factor that contributes to closing a church plant that can also be helpful when we're forced to detour from our routine.