Living with Courage
My office is a room full of transitions. Not only do the men and women who enter the space offer transition stories, the furniture itself tells stories of transition as well. My counseling ministry uses “shared space” within the church context. I have enjoyed years of a “leave no trace” ministry with “an office in a box” in Churches from New York to Virginia. The idea is a good one: the church opens its doors and heart to a pastoral counseling ministry (by offering a room to be used for this purpose that is otherwise underused during the week) and I provide a sacred space for those who are struggling as they traverse this life.
Since 2009, I have opened the doors of the “Lower Lounge,” at Westminster Presbyterian Church, Charlottesville to couples, individuals, students and families who are hurting. This is the location where mental and spiritual lives are restored and relationships are repaired. These shifts are big and small towards health and well-being.
Meanwhile, every year that I come and go from this space, I witness small shifts in the furniture. The room is after all a Sunday School room and has all the familiar hallmarks of a youth ministry with “This-Side-Up Furniture” (if you are too young to know what that was, never mind). This transition space also holds those things that just need a place to go in the church. Maybe because it reminded me of my years in pastoral ministry that I enjoyed seeing overflowing grocery bags stored there for the local Food Bank or the number of brightly colored hand-knitted prayer blankets growing in number.
I have grown accustomed to these shifts, small and large to this transition space that I call a counseling office. I have learned to read the patterns of the summer lulls and the back-to-school buzz. There is a sort of seasonal liturgy to these changes. And this week, to my great astonishment, a grand piano shows up, heralding yet another transition. This time it is not a collection or a donation. The shift this time signals a change in pastoral leadership. Before the new head of staff for Westminster ever gives his first sermon, this sacred space shifts, opens and offers a safe harbor for his family’s instrument. And it is then I realize that shift is what it is all about.
Transitions require a shift, by definition. When we navigate them well we are adapting and flexing and rediscovering and re-centering. As surely as the new dawn comes, transitions will come to me and to you. May we find an opening, a transition space, where the pieces of our lives can move, yet not overwhelm or redefine us; where we can shift but not stumble.