As I’m driving up I-40 today to attend the Festival of Homiletics in Nashville, I cannot help but be struck by the passage of time.
You see, 20 years ago, 20, wow, hard to even type that, after graduation from Memphis State in May, then, in June, I loaded up the Ryder truck and drove across the river into the strange and foreign land of the Tennessee Conference, to take my first pastoral appointment.
I was appointed as Associate Pastor at Old Hickory United Methodist Church, just outside of Nashville.
Actually, it’s in Nashville, they just didn’t want to admit it.
I moved and took the appointment in anticipation of my entry into Vanderbilt Divinity School.
I had an apartment in Hermitage, Tennessee.
I can’t take this drive now without remembering that seminal journey then.
College graduate. Days of fun and frolicking (and, oh yes, my friends, I funned and frolicked with the best of ‘em in those days, and some of you who read this can tell plenty of stories to that point – but please don’t, my people think I’m a good boy) giving way to the “mature” person I was supposed to be.
I left a girl I had fallen in love with only the year before, at a time I wasn’t sure if I even wanted to fall in love with anyone.
Oh yeah, that girl is now my wife.
So, off to Middle Tennessee - Time to put on the big boy pants and see how I’d do.
I recall this story of my life for many reasons – I remember my family sending me off. I recall leaving “youth ministry” at an affluent suburban Memphis church, and they being supportive as I went.
I think it comes down to this – within each of us, there comes a moment when a person’s call moves from dream to reality – and no call of God, not a one, is exempt from examination, testing – some wilderness wandering even, to see, in part, if that call is as deeply felt during the stresses and strains of living.
This trip was one such moment for me. Sure, there’d be more, but this one was as significant as any I’d ever take.
The other reason I recall this today is that I’m reminded that I’m leaving this event earlier than originally planned. The event goes until Friday, but I’m leaving Thursday afternoon to attend my oldest son’s graduation from the 8th grade.
Granted, I’m still not over the “scam” this graduation thing is at every level now. Kindergarten, Elementary School, Middle School, and oh, yes, High School.
Capitalism at work, I say.
But I’ll be there, camera in hand, probably a little misty. My boy is taking another step toward his moment when he’ll have to go out on his own to see what he’s made of.
And I’ll be there cheering him on, although I know it's his journey and his alone to take.