"...carry my body with you..."
"Moses took the body of Joseph with him, as Joseph had made the Israelites solemnly promise to do. Joseph had said,
When God rescues you, you must carry my body with you from this place." (Exodus 13:19)
I love the way God sends me messages. I rarely go looking for a photo or thought for inspiration; instead, they come to me. Yesterday I walked out of the church office and there sitting on the window sill about twenty feet from the door was this little critter. I'm not a bird expert but I knew from the spots and the beginnings of red feathers that it was a fledgling robin not long out of the nest. We shared sort of an awkward moment, with neither of us really knowing what to do next. He decided not to fly away (as most older birds would have done) so I decided to go get my camera. He was gracious enough to wait long enough for me to return and snap a few photos before deciding we'd had our moment and flew off. It's a rather confident pose he's striking, isn't it?
This not-long-from-the nest young robin got me to thinking about all the departures that are soon to happen. Seems like it's the season for leaving - high school and college graduations, weddings, moves timed to coincide with school-year endings, etc. It occurs to me that there are good and not so good departures.
Some departures are well-planned, long-anticipated and feel like we're moving toward or through something, maybe the next chapter of our lives. Others are like flights in the night, more like acts of desperation, and may feel like we're simply running away from something. Hopefully our departures are more like the former than the latter. Hopefully our departures allow us to step forth into a new opportunity with the blessings of those who have helped to nurture us in the previous chapter of our lives. Hopefully we can leave the nest with a sense of both a blessing to experience new freedom and experiences as well as a sense of our roots and the blessings that flow from that.
I will never forget the day my father dropped me off for my first day of college. My mother had to work that day so my father and I made the trip alone. During high school Dad and I had suffered through our "moments" with some fierce arguing that upset my mother at times. I was struggling to be in the nest while I was leaving the nest, and he was struggling to help me do both. It wasn't always a pretty scene. On this first day of college he helped me carry my things into my new dorm room, took me to lunch, and then drove me back to the dorm. We stood beside the car to say goodbye. He extended his hand and said, "Well son, your a man now and on your own." I shook his hand and we parted. Now don't get the impression he abandoned me. Quite the contrary, from time to time he stopped on his weekly business route through the college town to take me to dinner. On weekends with a home football game he and Mom came to see me in the marching band -- and bring more food. On breaks he stopped to give me a ride back home. As he said, I was on my own - I had left the nest - but I carried him with me. His love saw to that.
Things were different after that handshake. We never really argued again. Instead, on several occasions in his absence I would be in the middle of doing something like building a deck and hear his voice say over my shoulder, "Don't you think you ought to give it one more nail just to be on the safe side?" It was years later before I realized that the handshake that day was more than a goodbye - it was a blessing. I believe the best departures happen with a blessing - a goodbye that acknowledges the freedom to move on in such a way that it allows the departing one to carry the nurturing caretakers of the nest with him or her.
I believe that when Moses and the Israelites left Egypt carrying the bones of Joseph, it represented more than the fulfillment of an old man's wish to be buried in his homeland. I believe it also meant they left carrying the divine blessing of the One who had and would continue to nurture them. To leave carrying a blessing is divine, even better, the blessing of the Divine.
I pray that in all departures with others, whether I'm leaving or being left, I will offer the blessings I have been offered by God and others. How about you?
Blessings and Peace,
Pastor, Sand Hill United Methodist Church
Boaz, West Virginia
Help save lives! For more information on my new book, "A Relentless Hope: Surviving the Storm of Teen Depression," visit www.survivingteendepression.com.
Check out my new video, "Teens Surviving the Storm"