Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.
~St. F. Bueller.
A three year stint in the academy is coming to an end for me, meaning, I stand on the verge of a life altering event.
I’ve had many of those type of events in the last few years, none more so then the birth of Violet. Yet this week was a reminder that my time at Wake Forest School of Divinity is drawing to a close. You see, third year students are asked/granted the privilege to preach in Davis Chapel. When I was notified of this opportunity last semester I marked down that I would be more interested in the Spring and logged the future moment away in the recesses of my brain. A somewhat rattling email at the beginning of January reminded me of my proclamation duties, prompting me to craft a short 10 minute-ish sermon (10 minutes for a Baptist preacher?!?...the pressure was on for sure).
While relying on the lectionary text for that day in Nehemiah Ch. 8, I found myself remembering the words of a recently retired clergy I had the fortune to serve with at FBC-Statesville, Dr. Larry Gregg. When talking with me about my final semester he imparted the wisdom to brace for the inevitable; life after school. He recalled finishing his dissertation for his PhD, defending it, and then in his words “it was over.”
For some, graduation à la cap and gown or hood and stole signifies the completion of this journey, but I didn’t get that message from my conversation with Larry. What I sensed was a need to reflect on the ending of a particular kind of experience where you find yourself not surrounding by institutional learning, pedagogical peers, and letter grades attached for perceived worth of work for the first time in a while.
I understood what he was saying; something that has become such a large, demanding, personal part of your life is coming to an end and you better be ready to deal with that void.
Because of this, I’m starting to ask myself what this means to me, particularly around the notion of “ending well.” My first and probably only sermon at Wake Divinity as a student was my first chance in fleshing out this crucial practice. While my sermon, I hope, included historical, moral, and spiritual components my desire was to also express appreciation for the opportunity to be in that space at that time with both my family and peers. For me it was a chance to build material for reflection that can only be done by being intentionally present.
It’s the beginning of the end.