My fruit trees – the apricot, especially, but the plum and the nectarine as well – are covered with unripe fruit at the moment.
We are moving house next Wednesday. Although we planted these trees and nurtured them, the fruit will almost certainly go to the birds this year. It is a strange feeling.
It also seems like an apt metaphor for what it feels like to leave a ministry position. I have done a great deal of work, but the impact of most of it is difficult to quantify. I cannot point to a sermon which changed the world, or a pastoral conversation which clearly transformed someone’s relationship with God, or a programme which led to phenomenal church growth. If what I did had merit, much of it is perhaps still like the green apricots in my backyard; awaiting its moment of ultimate fulfilment. I will probably never know, in obvious measurable terms, much of what I’ve achieved.
That is good for the ego. It reminds me that the work is ultimately not mine, and keeps me humble. But there is also sadness in leaving an unfinished story; the story of God’s walk with this group of people in this place. Although I will know something of that unfolding story through church networks, it can never replace living in its rhythms.
This is, of course, a natural part of the life cycle of the priest. I must myself go on to new work and towards my own maturity, rather than staying in a training position forever. In a short time, a new day will lie open before me, with all of its joys and challenges. But today I find myself wearied by the changes and chances of this fleeting world, and the inevitable griefs and partings which come with them.