“Should I Stay or Should I Go Now” Part 1 was published on March 7, 2016. This continues the story.
My pastor called. At first, I was surprised to hear from him. We had been working together for almost two years at that point. I was a volunteer in the church music department and singing with one of the praise teams. I was also helping him choose congregational hymns for Sunday morning services. I was involved but not that involved. I couldn’t imagine why he would want to talk to me about anything too significant. But when he asked to meet me for coffee, I knew something was up.
Of course, my first indication was that I had done something wrong at the church. The pastor was no doubt responding to some complaint against me, but I couldn’t think of what I had done wrong. Well, needless to say, I was the one who ended up being wrong in the end. When Pastor and I sat down for coffee, I learned that he had an idea. He wondered how I would feel about expanding my role at the church. He proposed more involvement in the worship ministry in possibly taking on the job title of Worship and Music Director.
I was shocked, intimidated, honored, and thrilled all at the same time. He told me to pray about the opportunity, and was quick to consider that I would need to work some things out before or if I would assume the occupation. Of course, the creation of the position would need to be okayed with our church board, but he was almost certain we would be granted approval.
I wanted to say yes right away. I knew I needed to pray about it, but I could feel confirmation bubbling up inside of me and it was all I could do to keep it from bursting out of me. Was this the answer to my prayers? Had God given me a reason to stay? I never could have dreamed up such a scenario, for the reality was so far out of my sphere of possibility.
There were some things I needed to iron out before I could officially take the job. The board approved the position, and then the church personnel began to prepare the space for my future office. I would move into my office on November 14, 2011, and I could hardly wait!
My work at the church was fulfilling and gratifying, but as time moved forward, my role as a worship leader was not the only position I maintained. It seemed that even as I opened up my heart to the possibility of serving at my local church, God opened another door to the unexpected. Each summer since 2008, I had been involved with a camp for high school students with disabilities. The camp had entered into a time of transition, and in 2010, I found myself doing more than just serving on staff; I was training to potentially direct the program one day. I wasn’t sure where it all would lead, but in the summer of 2012, I found myself on my own. I was now the director of the camp in addition to serving as Worship and Music Director at the church.
The camp host college was about a three-and-a-half-hour drive from my home town, but fortunately, I didn’t need to travel too often. But in the times when I needed to hit the road, I faced a great deal of adversity. I loved directing the camp, interacting with the students, and leading the staff, but the physical logistics of the position were slowly wearing me down. Those of you who have read my recent posts know that 2015 proved to be a defining year for me. The planning period throughout the spring of 2015 was very taxing, and I found myself losing perspective quite frequently. Directing camp was never easy; in fact, it was always a challenge. But the spring of 2015 was the most challenging yet, and I wondered what it all could mean.
Was this just a bump in the road— a time for me to press onward and work through the challenges? Or was this the beginning of the end for me? Had I reached the end of my abilities? Had I carried the camp as far as I could? Was it time to let go?
Even as I traveled to our host college and directed the program onsite, the questions kept nagging at me. Somewhere in the back of my mind and heart, I had a feeling this would be my last summer in leadership. I had no idea how to process that realization. I had given so much of my time and energy to the activities of the camp that I didn’t know how to define myself without it.
I only told a few individuals of my realization. I didn’t want to say anything too prematurely and then have to back-track. I needed to weigh all of my options, and most importantly, pray about it. Then came the defining moment— the final straw, so to speak. I received the contract from our host college with the request for my signature. Decision time had come; was I going to proceed as director into 2016?
When it came to our camp, there was never really a good time to move on. Although it is primarily a summer program, some of the planning and fundraising goes on all year. I knew if I was going to let go, I couldn’t sign that contract. But if I did sign, I would be committed for another year. I could do it for another year; I knew that with certainty. I loved the staff and students, and I loved what the program provided. Love told me to stay, but fatigue told me to go. I asked myself: Was love enough? Would it keep me going for one more year?
I was about to sign my name to the all-important paperwork. I had decided that love was enough. If I stayed one more year, I could better prepare those who would carry on without me. If I left without equipping those future leaders, I would never forgive myself.
My pen hovered over the page. Why couldn’t I sign?
It was then that it all became crystal clear. I had been holding on out of guilt. True, love was the motivator, but guilt was the instigator. I had been prepared to sacrifice one more year in the name of guilt just to ease my mind and heart. If that was the case, would I ever let go?
A quote by author Susie Larson’s pastor summarized my reality just then: “You’re not free to go until you’re free to stay.” It was just like my commitment to stay with the church except it had the opposite outcome. I loved the church and I loved the camp, but in one case I was free to stay and with the other I was free to go. When it came to the church, my deep-rooted love for my home congregation proved to be my mainstay, but when it came to the camp, there was a missing link. The decision was clear to me; I had been willing to leave the church when I was certain something greater was ahead of me. That something greater just happened to be staying in place. But when it came to the camp, my willingness to stay would have been detrimental to all. I might have wanted to stay, but it was my deep-rooted love for the organization that sent me out the door. They deserved better, and I was not the better option for the future.
As I let go of camp, I was free to concentrate on my first love: my passion for God and worship ministry. As I have posted recently, I am hoping and praying there might be more to the days ahead— that maybe I can go beyond the church walls once more to continue to use my gifts and talents. But until my next steps are made known, I will stay where I am planted; for where once I was free to go, I am now free to remain.