Sitting in the office Tuesday morning, just back from vacation, a visitor stopped in and asked with a bit of angst in their voice, “Did you hear the Gandys are leaving?” Of course I had received the news, but had a different perspective, I replied, “Yes, but I heard they were going, not leaving.”
Our choice of words can say more than we intend. Previous conversations with Mr. Gandy made it clear he and Alyssa would not be here for the next school year. However, I heard that he was going, responding to God’s call to seminary and pastoral ministry that had been on his heart for many years. It was clear they were not leaving from a negative experience. They were not leaving the school; they were going where God was sending; listening through prayer and discussion with trusted mentors to the still small voice of God to His plan for their lives.
Why do I share this difference of perspectives? Because all too often the way we state facts is more important than the facts themselves. The same fact - Gandys will not be with UCA next year – can be seen as “Oh No! How can they leave?” or “Praise God for His working in their lives and their willingness to respond to His call.” Yes, they have been a positive and important part of our lives over the past few years. But it would be naïve to think God intended them to remain in one place forever. For all of us life is a journey. When we remain faithfully connected to God in prayer and the Word we will eventually be sent to embark on His next call on our lives. People of God are never allowed to remain the same; faith is meant to grow, and life moves forward as God opens us to new experiences of learning and life.
Like the disciples, we too often want things of joy and comfort to remain the same despite God calling us to His newness each day. Time and again in Scripture we see a difference in the expectations of the disciples and Jesus. In John 13:33 – 14:4 Jesus reminds his disciples that he too will be leaving, going on before them, to prepare a place in His Father’s house. In the Transfiguration experience (Mark 9:2-8) Peter, James, and John wanted to build shelters and make the experience last, but were reminded that all mountaintop experiences are not permanent. God moves us, shapes us, and transforms us, moving us to where He wants us, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Paul impacted many communities, people and congregations as he journeyed with God’s leading from location to location. If he had stayed in only one town, think how God’s wish to touch lives throughout the known world would have been short-circuited, if even temporarily.
How do we see transitions of life – from a human wish to keep good things stable (or stagnant), or as a life journey that God is leading through the many transitions? I read that most people can expect to have at least ten places of employment in their lifetime; quite unlike my parents’ generation that often would work for one employer for their entire life. If anything is sure the past century it is the reality of change, at a pace that seems faster than previous generations. The only assurance that is unchanging is God’s presence, protection, love, and faithfulness. Ours is to listen to His call, discern what He is doing in our lives, and respond obediently to His direction and Word – no matter where he sends us.
That is the difference between going and leaving. God’s promise is that when one goes forward in response to Him, He will always provide a way for all involved to move forward in His care. That is why when hearing of God’s call on the Gandys’ future, I could only respond in thankfulness for the past years of walking together, and celebrate how God is making His will clear for them. We will miss them, and we will be sustained by a thankfulness for the journey on which they are living for Him.
One other thought to consider: from what I know of UCA’s past, many of the UCA family are now in missions or ministry throughout the world. The Gandys are part of a growing family of those in Christian service. Our school truly has had a Kingdom role, and I am not talking about the Northeast Kingdom. The school has molded in many ways leaders of the Church. How can we not rejoice as people respond and grow in faithfulness? After all, that is why we exist – to grow faithful disciples.
Rev. J. Loring Carpenter, Interim Head of School