In my experience, transition came gently and progressively as I began to realize that God was asking me to take a year of Sabbatical. I had been ministering to college students for 14 years, a job that invigorated me and fulfilled me. College ministry to me was deeply personal for my very maturity with God was achieved through the context of the college campus both with those who mentored me through college, as well as, with the ladies that I had the privilege of walking through life with as a pastor. I went to my boss and told him that I needed a year’s Sabbatical, that I was unsure of what God was doing, but the one thing I was sure of was that I wasn’t tired and I loved my job. To me this was blind obedience, it was not a reaction to a feeling or state of mind. I wasn’t quitting.
But as God encounters us sometimes after that first step of obedience, He knew though I wasn’t quitting, that He was calling me to lay this job down.
It was the last service before my Sabbatical and I had already worked the Pre-Service by greeting everyone. I had already helped administer the weekly offering. Taking my seat as the worship band continued to play, I prepared myself to sneak in just one remaining song of worship before I listened to the sermon. And then God crashed into that moment. I was aware of His presence and visualizing His throne room; I realized that He was asking me to lay the crown of campus ministry at His feet.
In that moment, I realized two things. First, that I could not take credit for any of the work that He had done through me during that past 14 years. He had allowed me to do it. An overwhelming sense of gratitude and wonder enveloped me as I realized what He had given me the honor to participate in for over a decade. I looked around the room so full of thankfulness for specific students who I thought were ‘my girls,’ but who I knew were His girls who He entrusted to my care. Instantly, I realized God’s great love for me.
The second thing I realized was that I was now laying it down. As this vocation was never mine to begin with, it was not mine to hold onto. I did not own this calling. As with any crown that we are given, it belonged to Him in the first place and would be laid at His feet in the long run. I was a steward of His grace, His call, these relationships, and this mantle of authority. Always the under-shepherd, always the tenant, always the bond-servant, though it hurt to place it back in His hands, it was never mine to own. The glory was and is always His glory. All crowns must be laid at His feet.
Such a strange mixture of gratitude and relinquishment, joy and sorrow – this experience of transition. When anything is taken away from us by the Lord, though difficult, we can exclaim as Job did:
Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return.
The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away;
Blessed be the name of the Lord. (Job 1:21)
It is right that we are grateful for what He has given and that we freely surrender what God knows is good to take away. This doesn’t mean we understand it fully, nor do we fail to grieve. God meets us in a place of honesty, just as He met Jeremiah in his laments and the psalmist in his impassioned cries.
To grieve with God is a breathtaking experience. For though He knows what we grieve is not the end of the story, He does not resent our tears. When we purpose to spread our hands out wide in surrender, He knows true relinquishment is not cheaply offered, but costly and painful. He may not be quick to fill our hands with something new, it would be years before I had something tangible to grab onto. But to stay in that moment with empty hands has to be one of the purest forms of worship I have ever known.