(Another Open Letter to my friends who are Officers in the Salvation Army.)
Dear… Whomever you are,
You are all across the country and over the next few weeks you will be getting telephone calls from your bosses. You will be getting calls informing you that you are moving to a new place and starting something of a new life.
The phones will ring in the apartments of single Officers and in the homes of married ones. They will ring in your living rooms, kitchens and in your offices and in your pockets. They will ring on the way to Bible Study or your daughter’s choir concert. They will ring on date night or game night.
You will never forget this call. You will never forget the night it comes. These are calls that change the course of people’s lives.
The phone will ring and you will pick it up. You will pick it up with hopes and dreams. You will pick it up with a mission. You, a person with a heart and with feelings and a name, will pick up the phone and you will know. You will pick up the phone and the funny thing that is sometimes forgotten is that on the other end of the line is another person with a mission and a heart and feelings and a name.
Talk to them.
For some of you, these calls are expected and even invited. You have been anticipating new challenges. You are eager for new opportunities. Take care not to be too eager.
For some of you, these calls are answered with trepidation or regret. It’s too soon to move. There’s still work that needs to be done. The kids aren’t ready for something new right now. Take care not to underestimate them. Or you. Or Him.
And for some of you, these calls come with nothing but utter shock. We’ve only just arrived. What have we done wrong? Why? Take care not to be afraid of the future.
You may hang up from this call and immediately call or text mom or dad, brothers or sisters. You may call one or two of the faithful mentors in your life and speak to them. You may call the saint at the church and be fortunate enough to listen to seldom-shared wisdom.
Or the call ends and you and your spouse can do little but look at each other. You don’t have to hold back. You don’t have to be strong. You don’t have to have answers.
Or you may sit down with your family and look into the eyes of your children. This is a good time to demonstrate complete trust. This is an opportunity to live faith. This is a chance to grow…together.
Just talk to them.
Some of you will open a Bible and others will open Google maps.
Some will dance and sing, others will yell and scream. Some will cry, some will smile. Some will do all of the above. And of those, a few will attempt them all simultaneously.
Some of you will feel promoted. Some will feel demoted. You were never meant to be the Head of the Church, that job is already spoken for. Don’t assume it to be yours and don’t assume it’s been vacated.
Some will feel more than capable of the task, others will feel entirely unprepared. Every moment of our lives, in every job and in every relationship, is given through grace alone. Your best moments are only so because grace lifts you up. In your worst moments you are carried through on strength that is not your own.
Some will feel over-qualified, some will feel under-appreciated. Who among us are worthy to receive the gospel, much less to share it with others? Yet since we have received it, who among us can claim its promise more or less than another? Are we not all equal in our share of grace? For grace has traveled every distance equally and completely and it is not how or where we have been saved that is profound, but simply that we have been saved.
You may hear the name of your new hometown or your new appointment and feelings of pride and accomplishment will set in. Good work is honored. Faithful ministry is rewarded, though seldom through titles and prominence. Be strong and courageous wherever you set your feet. Simply continue to follow faithfully, regardless of reputation or rank.
Some of you will hear in anticipation and others in shock. Some will hear the name of that hometown or the position and succumb to disappointment or frustration.
Do not feel forgotten or forsaken. Elijah ran for his life. He sat in a cave and waited for God to show up. When He did, it wasn’t how Elijah expected it. Don’t expect. Listen. Better yet, don’t run for your life when God is in control.
However you respond, feelings will reign supreme for a while.
Ecstatic. Overjoyed. Dismayed. Confused. Betrayed. Angry.
Do not forget those who have been faithful to you. Your friends and family, or the soldiers and kids at your Corps. Do not think that you are the only one affected.
Set your successor up for success. Teach understanding as a way of life. Show love and flexibility as good habits. Preach grace in all things, at all times and with all people.
Do not give fear a seat at the table or a place in the pew.
Do not forget your children. Do not assume they will “bounce back”. Do not take their friendships or their grades or their understanding for granted. Do not miss a single moment in their lives as God takes them from the place that they know (and love) and puts them in a foreign land. Talk to them. Understand them. Love them more today than yesterday.
Finally, stay faithful to the call. Not just the call you got from your boss that will send you to a new place, but to the Call that changed your life in the first place.
Stay in step with He who has equipped you to this point and anticipate more.
Seek to have a radiant face and always offer an outstretched hand.
“Be holy and show up for work.”*
Remain in prayer. Always in prayer.
And you’ll be ok.