With quite a bit of regret, before we left Bradenton, I wrote my final monthly column for the Bradenton Herald. I am grateful to the editors there – Jim, Jennifer, Joan – who have become through this process great friends and a source of great encouragement. They will be missed.
The column was published this past Saturday, can be found here for a time, and is copied below.
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The mother looked at her child playing with two other four year olds, and moved by sentiment remarked to the other mothers, “Oh, I wish they would always stay this age.” Her friends nodded in agreement.
The wise among us see that such desires are sentimental poppycock. Still, change is something few embrace, and many fear.
In the 2002 movie Tuck Everlasting a family finds a spring of perpetual youth. Having drunk the water of this remote and magical spring, each member of the Tuck family no longer ages and cannot die. Life goes on, but they do not change.
Sentimental mothers aside, life without change, the Tucks discover, is not life at all. Explaining their strange life to a young girl who has discovered their secret, Angus, the father, says, “What we Tucks have, you can’t call it living. We just… are. We’re like rocks, stuck at the side of a stream.”
We understand that. But change scares some of us so much that we prefer to be unchanging rocks.
When my Bradenton grandfather died I was 12 and visited Bradenton for what I ‘knew’ would be the last time. I was surprised, then, when God, twenty years later, led me as a young pastor back to Bradenton.
What I had not expected has been exceptionally good.
I’ve been pastor at Hope Presbyterian Church in Bradenton now for nearly 25 years. Some applaud what they judge to be my faithfulness. They don’t see the deep fear of change that lurks under the surface of my longevity.
That fear has been subdued as the door has opened to be the pastor of a wonderful church (Covenant Presbyterian) in a new community (Oviedo, Florida).
J.R.R Tolkien mused, through his Hobbit character Bilbo,
“It’s a dangerous business…going out of your door…. You step into the Road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there is no knowing where you might be swept off to.”
We are being ‘swept off’ to Oviedo. We leave beloved things behind, but we look for the blessing ahead. God is the Lord of this Road. His blessing would have been lost if Abraham had stayed in Ur, Moses in Midian, Lincoln in Springfield, Bilbo in Hobbiton, and I, once, in St. Louis or now, in Bradenton.
In the end, we know that we are not rocks, but people, and that the future is not blank and fearful, but ruled by God and full of promise.
Who can fear that road?