Over the past few weeks I’ve been spending time with families who are making some big decisions about their living situation. For a variety of reasons, they may not be able to continue living in their homes and are exploring other options, from moving in with family to assisted living and long term care. This can never be an easy decision to make. For some, the decision is being made for them by family who are taking a greater role in caring for them. For others, the handwriting is on the wall, and they know that hour is coming.
A common theme in our discussions is church. One of their concerns is not wanting to lose access to their church family, involvement and worship. Among the many financial, health and transportation issues that must be addressed, their faith life rose to the top, like cream atop the milk.
I’ll be honest, I underestimated the depth of their faith. As a pastor, I spend a significant amount of time pursuing those who call themselves members, but haven’t attended in a long, long time. I deal with many for whom church is only an occasional part of their very busy lives. I’ve been disappointed by many with wonderful spiritual intentions but little follow through. I’ve watched long time members simply walk away without so much as a goodbye. All of which sometimes blinds me to those for whom church is a non-negotiable, the major food group in their life, as necessary as oxygen to breathe, and something that they promised – when they joined the church – they would remain faithful to, even to the point of death. With an eye to the numerical growth (or decline) of the church, I missed seeing the flourishing faith life of those who hear God’s Word and bear that hundredfold crop.
I don’t know – yet – what it will be like to have my children tell me I’m moving. My wife and I did our best to raise them and we trust them to make good decisions for us when that day comes. (One thing for sure: they won’t be fighting over our money!) That day isn’t close yet, as far as we can tell. I hope we are accepting of that day when they need to step in and take care of us.
Before that day comes, my church home will probably change. When a pastor retires, he doesn’t stick around, but leaves so that the next pastor can shepherd the flock. We are both deeply rooted in church life, and for many years in this church’s life. We’ve already wondered out loud, “Where will we go?” Good question. One we are still researching.
Our congregation has become a “destination” congregation for a number of retired pastors and their wives. I’m glad we are here for them and they have found a place to set up camp for a while. I’ll bet they’ll have some wisdom for me to tap into.
In the meantime, I’m going to make sure I stop to smell the roses as it were, to appreciate and thank God for those who still serve faithfully in the church militant here on earth.