When I first heard the phrase “leaving well” I had no idea what it meant.
Did it mean that the removal van turned up at the right time and there were no issues with my ‘stuff?’
Did it mean that I just snuck away, so I, or anyone else wouldn’t get sad by my departure?
Everyone was saying it, it was in all the articles I read about leaving. You must “leave well.” I begun to understood what it meant, and I begun to hope that I was preparing to do just that.
3 years is a long time, a long season, it means a lot of invested in relationships, which I knew meant a lot of difficult goodbyes. My leaving had been no secret, it had been discussed from the day I joined the church, due to the nature of it being my placement which was contracted for the length of my degree. The time had done a mixture of going really quickly, but me also feeling that I had been there a lot longer, in a good way! A couple of months before I was due to leave, in July, I begun dropping it into more conversations, talking about what’s next and mentioning to a lot of the regular young people I was working with. What I hadn’t recognised is that so many people would have missed all these ‘mention’s.’ The pastor announced my leaving picnic details around 2 weeks before and 10 minutes later when I took the young people upstairs for their session I had 4 or 5 young people gathering round me asking “Why are you leaving?”
This is not “leaving well.”
I was quick to explain to them why and where I was going, which I had to do a number of times after the church service that day. It all seemed to feel a lot more real at the point, and being asked so many times was not the best idea for my emotions! Seeing as I didn’t have a job to go on to, this question was made a lot harder, many of the adults kept asking whether I knew what was next, which is a natural thing to ask, but particularly for the young people made my explaining why I was leaving a lot harder. For a good number of people the question they were asking in their heads was “If she has nothing to go on to, why is she leaving, why doesn’t she stay?” There were many moments I would ask myself the same questions, especially when I felt like everyone around me was thinking the same thing (only a few voicing it.) But I knew, deep down, I needed to go. It was the end of a season. A brilliant one, where I learnt a lot, and grew a lot, but it was time for it to end. I had a clear calling from God to work with the young people at my home church, and this is what I was holding onto, and this is the message I needed to tell the world!
From that moment on, I would, as I explained that I was leaving and why, add this onto the end. “I’m sad that I’m leaving, it’s tough, it’s not going to be easy, but I’m clear I am meant to be working with the young people back at my home church. I’m unsure of what exactly things will look like, I’m still looking for a job. But I want to be someone who when God says ‘Go’ I listen and obey.” I knew that it was right when 2 of my young people said along the lines of, “Wow, I love that you are just following what you think God says, we’ll miss you though.” What a response, and from the mouths of the 2 of girls I had been working with and investing in for 2 of the 3 years. I thank God so much for this clarification.
My “leaving well” plans were improving.
My last weeks were so difficult, I had a number of goodbyes to say, I had lot’s of “lasts” and it did NOT get easier. But again my comfort was found in that God knew what He was doing, even if I didn’t. In each group I worked with we had a send off, some combined with end of term outings or activities. 3 of my young people took me out to dinner to say thank you, and these moments will be forever treasured. 2 of the girls I had mentored cried at our last mentoring session together. Many people from my church family gathered to share a picnic together on my last Sunday, and it was so beautiful just being ‘family’ together. My final church service was tough. It was beautiful and tough, all at the same time. I received gifts, and I was prayed for, and I had kind words of encouragement and affirmation spoken over me, and a book made for me full of goodness and tear-jerker’s. I gave gifts, and I made the church a photo montage of the 3 years. (Which can be found at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=clVW64rOCbI&feature=autoshare) There were tears, a lot of laughter and a giant church selfie (my favourite moment) but what I loved the most was the time that was being put in to say goodbye to me, and to encourage me, to love me and show me support. I am so grateful for each moment, during the time I was leaving, but also each moment over the last 3 years. I left less than a month ago, so even writing this has been tough. I’m still sad I had to leave, and I still miss all the friends and young people I spent time with but God showed me more of his goodness, grace, mercy, forgiveness and supportive nature to me this season. I learnt so much. So much that I’ve got to get out there and share!
Let this be my motivation God.
Leaving well meant communicating with those I’d been investing it, it meant being real and honest, it meant helping my young people to understand that I am still for them, I still love them and want the best for them and that God is the one who makes things happen, not me, it meant learning to love long (ish) distance friendships, it meant taking time out to thank all those who have been there for me over the last 3 years, it meant taking time out to encourage those young people that I’d been working with and it meant explaining that when we are serving and seeking God, it sometimes means change, it means moving on, it means goodbyes and hellos, it means new seasons, it means emotion, it means love and it means following and obeying.
I hope this can be a message that says ‘Yes things change, seasons change. But God is consistent, God is good, and God has an awesome adventure planned for each of us, wherever that may be. “
Deuteronomy 31:8 says “The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”
Lead me, I pray God.
Help me be excited and expectant for this new season God.
(And Woodford Baptist Family, if you think you’ve seen the last of me, think again!)