Last night, I slept on an inflatable mattress in my new apartment in Manhattan. That certainly doesn’t make me a New Yorker, but it is one step closer. Today, I will return to Atlanta, to Brix, to my condo, and to Virginia-Highland Church. Although I have not yet gotten on the plane to Atlanta, I can make one prediction with confidence: I will spend the next few days second guessing my decision and wondering if grief has caused me to lose my mind.
This prophecy is not based on anything about New York City, but on experience. This is my fourth city/state move as an adult, and, each time, I have been overwhelmed with doubts and regrets. That has been an amazing gift for which I am eternally grateful.
Yes, you read that right. You see, my anxiety, doubts, and profound sadness are the result of deeply loving the places where I have lived and the people with whom I have shared the journey. Never have I left a congregation easily or gladly, and that is an amazing gift. I started my ministry at 18 and pastored my way through college and seminary. That means I’ve been doing this work for more than 40 years, and, whether I was with a church two years as a student, or 22 years in Dallas or six-and-a-half years in Atlanta as senior pastor, I’ve fallen head over heels for the church, the people, and the place where Life led me.
This move is no different. I have regretted leaving at least 1,000 times already, and moving day isn’t even here yet. On Sunday, I will preach my last sermon as the pastor of Virginia-Highland Church, but I have no idea what to say. How do you say, “THANK YOU” to the people who have loved you through the greatest grief in your life? Bill and I met, courted, and married in that neighborhood almost 37 years ago. When we went to VHC in 2011, it was like going home. Now, I’m leaving home again, this time without Bill.
I guess my point is simply this: doubt, regret, and grief are normal, even if the decision is the right one. Don’t let those feelings shake your trust; instead, be grateful that they come as signs of the gifts that have been yours and a promise that, if you are faithful and face the future with an open heart, there are more gifts to come.
Rev. Michael Piazza