As we enter this new year – our second year together and your second year of interim ministry – I find myself thinking and wondering a lot about expectations, identity, and change.
This summer, as I prepared to spend a week camping with my mother, my sisters, and their children, I spent an hour talking about my excitement and my anxieties with my therapist and even more time meditating on this. You see, I’ve changed over the past few years.
We go through seasons of our lives where our identities are clearer and we question them less. And we go through other seasons where transformation reaches up and grabs us, and where we re-question our identities and come to new understandings. The cycle is continuous and ongoing.
This isn’t surprising, but it is stressful. And it’s even more so when we change and then we go back into a setting where people expect us to still be the same – where we each have specific roles and ways of being. Disrupting those, even when it means being who we want to be, who we know we are now, is hard.
And it’s particularly hard when we’re coming to understand that our identities are multiple and are made up of not just one story but many stories. That those stories are contradictory but still may very well all be true. And that parts of our stories that we may not have given enough credit to in the past are showing up in ways that deeply influence us. Our society teaches us that we can’t hold and honor all these complexities.
For my family, for this congregation, and in the larger world this is a season where we’re living into the challenges of transition, expectations, and changing identity more.
And so I’ve found myself thinking about expectation and identity. I’ve found myself turning over a quote from the book In the Interim: “Do all churches [or people] need to take advantage of the opportunity to significantly change during a ministerial transition[times of societal or life change]? Research and experience tell us that this is a time to discover a new identity. That discovery will best be made when the congregation [or person] has examined its [their] old identity and compared it to present reality.”
We all interact with change best when we’re able to examine our old identities, compare them to our present reality, and honor our stories, experiences, and feelings. When we can hold the fullness of our pasts and perhaps even find new strength and resources in them. And we do even better when we’re able to sit in the mystery of change.
As I cultivate my curiosity in the midst of this great unknowing, Martha Beck’s change cycle from Finding Your Own North Star also comes to me. I’m sharing it below as a resource for you as we enter this new church year together. What’s your mantra for this stage of life? I’m looking forward to exploring with you.
Love and Blessings,