CLERGY CORNER: Happy for you, but sad for me

Posted on 17 August 2017 by LeslieM

Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

As a clergyman, I discovered the “ambidextrous” nature of my profession. On one hand, I am a theologian, which is to say, I am an academician. When I fulfill this role, it is safe. I am in the cerebral realm and can distance myself, emotionally, from the subject at hand.

On the other hand, I am a pastor. As a pastor I make the abstract personal and find myself in the realm of the heart. This is the more vulnerable of the two realms because emotions are involved and I find I simply cannot distance myself from the subject at hand.

Usually, when I write these articles, I write from the safer of the two realms. I try to keep my writing professional as opposed to personal. And this is the safer of the two options, particularly when our readership is ecumenical.

Well, today, I simply cannot distance myself from my writing. As I write my article, I anticipate the end of this week when I bring my youngest child to college. I anticipate empty nest syndrome and I find myself, this week, caught up in the emotion. I realize I am not alone. And it is this realization that inspired me to write my article to all the moms and dads out there who are facing major life transitions this week. Whether you are sending your child to kindergarten, middle school, high school or college, the transition can be a challenge. And if you find yourself in this category, this one is for you.

There are things we say when we face life transitions. One of the most honest statements I have heard people mention is “I am happy for you but sad for me.” When your best friend moves to a new place because he or she got a promotion you might say this. When you speak at a loved one’s funeral, as a person of faith, acknowledging a better hereafter for our loved one but a difficult here and now for you, you might say this. And, when the father links arms with his daughter and walks down the aisle, he has a smile from ear to ear but tears are streaming from both eyes. As he faces the realization that his little girl is getting married, his expression says it all: “I am happy for you but sad for me.”

As a parent, we prepare our children for the day when they will leave home. We want our kids to succeed, to become independent, become everything God created them to be. As we nudge them out of the nest, we want them to spread their wings and fly. Until that day comes, we hang on to each moment and hold them as tight as we can never wanting to let go. And, yet, we must. When that day comes, we remind ourselves that it was for this moment that we worked so hard. Yet, selfishly perhaps, we hope that moment never comes. Rest assured, that moment will come. And when it does, we say: “I am happy for you but sad for me.”

It was difficult when my daughter Rachel went off to college. Fortunately, her little brother was home. It broke my heart the first time, but the realization that Nate was still home made it somewhat bearable. Now, that is no longer true. You think you can prepare yourself for these things emotionally, but I should know by now that emotions don’t work that way. I can say, with all sincerity, that I am happy for him but sad for me. My wife and I need to remind ourselves that this was the moment we worked for. He is ready and I know that his future is bright. But it doesn’t change the fact that I will miss him terribly.

Moms and dads, people of faith, whatever your faith may be, you are not alone. Being a dad has taught me many valuable lessons that have shaped my ministry. I have walked with many people through life transitions. I have experienced the emotions of hundreds of people, albeit from somewhat of a professional distance. Now, I find myself walking down the path many have walked before me. I cannot say: “I know how you are feeling.” But I can say: “I have a pretty good idea …” Feel free to call your clergy person and share what is on your heart and pray with him or her. You may be surprised to discover that your spiritual leader, too, may have taken your path and have a pretty good idea of how you are feeling.

But know this, you are in my prayers. And may God bless you and your children during this time of transition. You may be sad for yourself, but be happy for your child.

Pastor Gross is a pastor of Zion Lutheran Church, located at 959 SE 6 Ave., Deerfield Beach, FL 33441. For more information, call 954-421-3146 or visit www.zion-lutheran.org.

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