It’s a time of transitions. I start a new role in a short while, and I’ve finished the old one. Today I went to a parish I’ve never been to before, with dim thoughts of sitting anonymously in a pew and being ministered to. (Too bad the vicar blew my cover…)
It’s a time of evaluations, too. Nothing makes you consider carefully the value of all your stuff like being faced with the prospect of packing, moving, unpacking, and finding it a functional place in your new home. Many things that I’ve held onto before were let go, with remarkably little regret.
There’s a more abstract form of this, too. A re-evaluation of past events and eras in my life; what does each mean to me now? How might it relate to the era that’s about to begin? (For example, what actual use is it for a vicar to have a pretty decent – if now slightly dated – working knowledge of immunology, anyway?)
Here the letting go is harder. Who I was ten, twenty or even thirty years ago, and the things I did over those years, do matter. I may no longer be that person, but having been that person shapes my values, my way of looking at things, and how I interact with those around me. It’s not so much about what you keep and what you discard, as about how you find enduring meaning.
And old wounds seem to ache, as they, too, are re-evaluated. Have they healed enough to be a source of strength and empathy, or are they still vulnerabilities needing careful safeguarding?
There is also, for me, this time, something of a feeling of coming of age, or of coming into my own strength. Finally the long apprenticeship of curacies is over, and I will be a vicar in my own right. I am poised at a moment in time where I can decide what sort of vicar I want to be. I’m free to take the best of what my history offers me, and weave it together into my own best version of myself (with the help of God, of course). So in that sense, this process of re-evaluation seems to be more than navel-gazing, but to be something that really matters.
This is, I know, all very normal. In one class on pastoral care, I remember learning that most people go through this sort of process in some way, on average, about every seven years. It’s something we humans do instinctively when our lives change. I’m fortunate to be conscious enough of it to approach it intentionally.
But it is still rather strange, to be in this in-between space. Although the time to tend to my own “stuff” is a luxury, and I’m grateful for it, I will also be glad to get out of limbo and back to work!