At some point early in the pandemic Monica and I binge-watched a series on Netflix called “Heartland”.  We think it was my brother and his late wife who introduced us to it.  To this day we are still hooked.  We are currently recording and watching season 16!  The previous seasons we have watched multiple times.  However, I must warn you – suspense, bloodshed, and similar scenarios are not a part of it (so it might not be for you).
Much of it is about horses – a topic I literally care little about (a “horse whisperer”, really?).  It has multiple references to mysticism and pagan spiritualism – which evoke low grumblings under my breath.  But violence is non-existent and family tensions are real.  Amy is cute (especially in her younger years) … and Jack is the other winsome character.  In other words, it has a great balance of real life and challenging characters (Tim and Lou for me) to keep me hooked.
Speaking of heartland, there is something that has been landing in my heart very strong and center during my Final Tour.  While it is something that I have always known, it has been – besides hitting me in the heart – hitting me between the eyes.  I will not miss the long hours, the multiple responsibilities and pressures, or the time away from family that have been a regular part of my life for +40 years, however there is one thing I am really struggling with.  I will miss all the people connections.
On Christmas Eve someone mentioned to me that the service (in particular, me being there) was bitter-sweet.  Sweet in the fact that we were doing another Christmas Eve together.  Bitter because it was our last one in which we would be together.  That word – bittersweet – is exactly the word that describes every goodbye that I have been saying.
This is another way of saying I am not looking forward to February 19!  I am afraid that I will not be able to control my emotions.  I am praying that – by God’s grace – I get through the worship service.  What takes place afterwards in the narthex and at the hall … let’s just say I fear that parts of it will expose portions of me that I have likely tried to conceal for decades!
Please do not confuse February 19 with the day after!  I know that retirement – after I get through the “withdrawal” – will be great.  It is the right thing – for STL, for me and my family, and for God’s kingdom.  And my support structure has been strong in preparing me for what is to come … and how to handle it.  And, yes, I am really anticipating the weekend before February 20 with great joy.
Are there things that you find landing in your heart similarly?  Are there things that you face with a combination of joy and fear?  I think this might be something we all, as baptized Children of God (New Testament), have in common with the Children of Israel (Old Testament) during their wilderness wandering years.
They rejoiced as they came out of the Red Sea – free from slavery, the riches of Egypt poured upon them, and seeing first-hand God’s rescuing grace.  But then the reality of the wilderness set in – they “wept again and said, ‘Oh that we had meat to eat!  We remember the fish we ate in Egypt that cost nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic.  But now our strength is dried up, and there is nothing at all but this manna to look at.’” (Numbers 11.4-6) Can you imagine – not even the parting of the Red Sea combined with manna from heaven could overcome the bitter taste of the wilderness upon their lips?
I can!  God has rescued my from the slavery of sin in the “water crossing” of my baptism, filled my life with the riches of his grace and gifts, and has me seeing first-hand his love, over-and-over again, through +28 years of ministry at STL (not to mention the +40 years of my life prior to STL), and yet the reality of the wilderness is ever before me!  I am entering into uncharted territory with the fear that there is no Sacajawea for me (have you read “Canoeing the Mountains”?)  How will I respond to not being needed by – or able to respond to – many things and people I treasure?
It sure is a good thing that my success now, as in the past, will all come from my Redeemer, Jesus.  How does Paul put it?  “Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God.  Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit.  For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” (2 Corinthians 3.4-6)
In other words, with Christ as my Sacajawea, my heart will certainly land in a good place … and not just mine, but also the hearts of all those people I will miss.  Paul goes on to write, “Since we have such a hope, we are very bold, not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face … (Rather) we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.  For this comes from the Lord who is Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3.12-18)
I am not sure how many seasons of Heartland they will end up producing … nor am I sure what to call the season of life I am entering … or when it will end … But I am sure that it will definitely be a blessed time for all who are alive in Christ Jesus, for “such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God.