Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Empty Nest Syndrome

I am feeling bereft. My big baby, my almost- grown- up- and- able to- stand -on- its- own- two- feet baby which I have fed and filled and nurtured, has left home today. I have had to part with him even though I had got used to his solid presence in the study, patiently standing to attention, waiting for more filing, eying me wonderingly day after day.

I have filed him full of every bit of ordained life, public and private, that I could think of, every report, summary, reflection, mark and record of my comings and goings over three years since I said 'Yes, send me, fill me' and in return they sent me a large black folder and said 'fill it.'

I didn't ask to give birth to this difficult thing; the gestation was long and tortuous, but as with all unwanted pregnancies, you eventually become somewhat attached.  At first you cannot ignore the appetite, the constant craving for attention. Only you can satisfy its needs. Fill me, fill me, it cries. Sometimes I didn't understand its cry; I was confused in the early days. What would be an appropriate level of filling?  Was this a cry for more filling or less? Was it happy or angry? Too full or still hungry? The insides of a strange young being are only understood by experts, but I was the one having to fill it day after day, worrying about whether it was the right filling, worrying whether the filling would be regurgitated and I would have a lot of mess to clear up afterwards and thus be a bad parent. Parent envy stalked me: other parents seemed to understand their offspring better. They knew just what was needed to fill them, fulfil them.

Time has gone on. As with all parenting I have gained experienced. I have poured myself into this being. It is wholly part of me, which is why separation is so hard. Our memories are shared. Do you recall at the start I couldn't even....?! Or that awful time when.....?! Then again I was so proud of the time when.....! 

I hope the people who encounter you will appreciate the life and death that has gone into you, the personal struggles and costly learning that fills you. I hope they'll like the coloured tags I put on you so others would get the complex, often funny, and occasionally maddening picture you are trying to represent (you don't know how to speak yet, but in a way you do). Your plastic wallets are many and smooth and sleek. Your grids are straight, signed, and, hopefully, impeccable. Your learning outcomes are cross referenced to within an inch of their vocational, ministerial, spiritual, personal, characterful, relational, missional, evangelistic, collaborative and qualitatively faithful life.

But even all that doesn't really tell the whole story. When all's said and done, the early morning panics, the night time worries, the weepy walks; the scary schools, the chilly morgue, the wet graveyards, cold churches and warm homes; the lonely streets, stuffy lecture rooms and musty vestries; the hopeful young, the wrinkly smiles; the hilarious, the demented, the whole and the broken; really and truly, others can stare at you and coldly leaf you through; they can dissect, moderate and compare you with an ideal, but when all's said and done, they really did have to be there.

Good luck my Ministry Development Folder.

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