-Pastor Melissa Fain-
There are days I connect with Princess Fiona from Shrek. If you ever have seen the musical version (which is available on Netflix), she sings this song titled, "I know it's today." See, Fiona is ready from day 23 to find her "ever after." Shrek however, even when he finds Fiona at 8,423 days is still not ready.
I've been ready for a decade now. I've always been able to hard quit. (That's actually why it's pretty impressive I've kept Fig Tree going with a dream and prayer for over a decade. It's not in my DNA.) It means I'm rather impatient. I remember, right before seminary (over 15 years ago) I told all this to Rev. Dr. James Brewer Calvert. He told me something I've had to remind myself of- When the waves pull back from ocean, that's when they are preparing for the next crash, and that time is more important than the crash.
I bring this up because of another event that happened last January.
There is a teacher on the 8th grade hall at Austin Middle School that encourages everyone to have a word. It's a single word that calls to them for the year.
My word at the beginning of 2020 was TRUTH.
My word at the beginning of 2021 was LOVE.
She asked me what my word for this year is...
I told her FAREWELL. She thought it was negative.
I always take these words seriously.
I knew I was going to be bold in the truth in 2020, and WOW did that come true. I want to be an advocate for the teachers, and shared in ways that was a bit more transparent than others were.
In 2021 I knew I needed to find love in an increasingly jaded world. It was intentional, and I needed to show what relationship looked like while the world cracked and broke around us.
In January I had this strong feeling I needed to say a very slow farewell. I still do. Let me explain what that means.
I feel I have found a safe harbor for the past eight years at Austin Middle School. More than that, it has felt like a mini-call. I have been able to relieve just a little bit of the pressure for the educators. It is a job that can't be easily replaced. Right now I'm long term subbing in a capacity that will leave a vacuum if I step away. It's just true. I'm good at crisis management; trauma care.
I know it's something that will only be more necessary as the years continue, but my trauma management will not be enough.
And, I feel it. God is calling me away, and I've felt the need to say a long farewell.
The Long Farewell.
When I felt that word come to be in January it was not met with joy like I thought it would. For years I was ready like Fiona to get going. When I stepped into a role as a substitute teacher many years ago, I didn't think I'd fall in love with my waystation. Now, this "hard quit" gal doesn't want to leave.
What does it mean to say a long farewell?
First, it means I was given time. A long farewell, is not a hasty retreat. I can clean up and leave things better than I entered it. Part of that, is being intentional with those who are taking my place. I tell the good subs that they are doing a good job. I'm a bit more honest with the teachers where I felt I needed assistance- not for me, but for those who follow me.
Second, it is a 'bye." We say goodbye to many things in life, but many of us refuse to see the health in goodbyes, so there are many unhealthy situations that we cling to. Me being able 'hard quit,' has made it easier to say goodbye to unhealthy habits, but that doesn't mean I enjoy doing it. Also, it doesn't mean that everything I say goodbye to is unhealthy for me. Sometimes, it's simply time to move on. Sometimes, saying hello to a new stage in life means means saying goodbye to a current healthy stage in life. That's life.
Finally, the word I chose was 'farewell,' not 'goodbye.' To say, "goodbye," is to want the leaving to be good. To say, "farewell," is want the system you are leaving to do well after you are gone. One cuts it off at departure, while the other keeps a relationship once departed. The word 'farewell,' is very intentional. It's saying, may my departure leave you in a good place.
But most importantly, leaving is a stage of life.
We are afraid of letting go. The question of what comes after now lingers on our thoughts like a looming shadow. Our inability to allow the future to move forward has left us in a stagnant undeath. We are neither living nor dying. Instead, we are rotting in an in-between nothingness.
If we can't begin to live into healthy farewells, we will be forced into hasty goodbyes.
Endings are part of life. Our ability to accept that help choose whether those departures are healthy or broken.