Friday, July 24, 2015

Going home

I put two laundry baskets full of clothes in the car. He stood and watched me pack, wordless. I buckled two small bodies into the car and didn't say goodbye or make eye contact. He never asked where I was going or for how long. And I just drove away.

I was at my breaking point. He had been out of work forever. I was teaching full-time while he cared for our babies at home. He had no obvious plans, at least none that he was sharing with me. And when he did share, the direction he was heading made zero sense. I was stressed and stretched by my family and work demands. This was not the picture of life I had imagined for us. We were barely speaking. So I left with the kids. I went to my parents' house. I had no idea what I was doing. I felt everything and nothing all at once.

I'm not sure how many hours or days passed, but he reached out to our pastor, Rev. Dr. Dennis Paulson, as he had in recent months while dealing with his depression and confusion about his future. I had no idea what they'd been talking about, but he always seemed lighter after they'd met. But I wasn't seeing progress at all, at least not fast enough. 

He invited me to church to come talk to him and Dr. Paulson. I knew I should go, and I wasn't sure I wanted to, but I went anyway. 

Dr. Paulson saved my marriage in three words: Go back home.  

It was cold and I was wearing a heavy cowl-neck sweater. My palms were sweaty. I felt small on the oversized couch, but my anger felt big. Cocooned in my sweater and my rage, I glared at both of them. "And if I go home, can you promise that things will get better?"

"No. But I can promise to try. I'm working some things out."

As the saying goes, when the student is ready the teacher appears.

Dr. Paulson led my husband and I through discerning a call to ministry. He gave us the good news and the bad news about itinerancy. He and his wife, Gerrie, openly shared their life experiences in ministry while raising young children. He could see the big picture and knew that our marriage could withstand these storms, but he also recommended a good therapist. 

Dr. Paulson gently but intentionally guided us through the ordination process in Detroit. And when that process didn't yield the results we had been hoping for, he was angry and confused right along with us. He blessed us to go forth to Illinois, where he had begun his own ministry as a young man. 

And now our friend and mentor has gone back home. He passed away suddenly this week in a boating accident. His wife was with him at the time of the accident. I can only imagine her pain. 

Todd and I attended his funeral today. His friend and colleague, Rev. Bill Dobbs gave the eulogy. Among the scriptures he referenced was Romans 8: 38-39 which reads, "For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."
Rev. Dobbs went on to elaborate that God is waiting to wrap God's arms around us and bring us home. 

This is something I am certain Dr. Paulson did not fear in life, but instead embraced. While I am sure he didn't know the hour nor the manner in which he would die, he was not afraid of death. He had peace. He had been a good and faithful servant; he had run his race. I pray for the same peace to be upon his friends and family and all those who he's touched throughout his life as they learn to rebuild a home without him. One only needed look upon the faces of those gathered today to see the impact he had in his life. 

Sometimes going home is hard. 


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