I am moving on. (Again!) It feels like being back at school that at the end of this term, every couple of years I have to move on from what I know, what I love, what I feel safe in. It’s scary, it’s exciting, it’s challenging, it’s uncomfortable, it’s new, it’s sad, it’s happy, it’s a whole load of crazy things. But it’s time to move on.
I’m preparing to leave Thornton, goodbye cards are being written, presents are being bought, the “lasts” are happening thick and fast, and I have been living out of a bag for two weeks in the hope of making it easier to leave my little flat that has been half home for two years. I don’t really want to go, I know deep down that its time to move on and I have all sorts of awesome to look forward to, but the fact remains that I don’t really want to leave.
I currently have some very noisy birds living outside my bedroom window that help me greet the morning at about 5:30 every day (to be fair I’m glad that they help me get up to run!) and they have put me in mind of my situation as I get ready to leave Thornton. A couple of years ago, while interviewing for another job, I gave a presentation about how good youth work should work as a something of a bird’s nest for young people. A bird’s nest provides a place of sanctuary and nurture for the new hatchlings. A place to be fed and cared for, a place to grow and mature. But a nest also provides a place of challenge for the baby birds. They cannot stay in that place of security forever, they must fly the nest. All too soon the time must come when they are nudged to the edge of the nest, challenged to spread their wings and required to leave the comfort zone behind. The nest stays where it is, and they can always fly back for a little security from time to time, but they must move on.
For the last two years Thornton has been my nest; this has been a safe place, Thornton has cared for me, nurtured me, helped me to grow and been something of my sanctuary. I have made friends for life here, I’ve learnt about myself and the world here, I’ve matured here and I have been healed here. But there has been challenge here too, I have been frequently stretched beyond breaking point, I’ve been nudged to the edge of the nest and now it’s time to fly. Thornton will always be there to return to, but it’s time now to take the challenge and leave the sanctuary.
Knowing its time and wanting to accept the challenge are very different things to actually feeling ready to leave the nest and say goodbye. But it’s time, time to move… On.
In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, when Harry “dies” and winds up in a ghostly white King’s Cross station, Dumbledore says something simple but brilliantly profound. Harry asks where he could/ should go from this point, Dumbledore says he could probably board a train if he wanted to and when Harry asks where the train would take him, Dumbledore simply answers “On”.
It can be, and is, so easy to stay in a place, a situation, a mood, a job, a relationship that is familiar, feels safe and within our comfort zone. But to keep ourselves growing, learning and facing challenges, it seems to me that as Dumbledore suggests, the key like riding a bike, is to keep moving. We have to go on.
I’ve pretty recently started running, I’ve just started the journey pushing from 5 to 10km, and there is always a point in any run where I have to consciously chose to go on. It varies between times and distances, it can come early on, or when I’m on the home straight; but I always have to make the choice between stopping and going on. But the thing is, and the reason behind always choosing to go on, is that if I choose to stop then I’m still 3.5km away from home, still out of breath, still in pain but just suddenly not moving as fast as I was. The key to life is to move… On.
About 10 years ago there was a little girl that came to my church called Cecile (she had sisters called Aphra and Adelaide, they were all cute as buttons, you couldn’t not love them). I remember one morning after church she was outside with one of her little buddies and she was shouting to her mum that she was going “beyond”. Her mum explained, in a rather exasperated way, that she’d already explained lots of times that you couldn’t just go beyond, and there needed to be a thing that you were going beyond; but Cecile kept it up, shouting excitedly that she was going beyond.
Now as grammatically incorrect as little Cecile may have been, her voice has kept coming back to me over the last few weeks and I think there is some truth in what she was saying. I’m taking Dumbledore’s advice and going on, I have some idea of where, but not a massive amount. The future, while bright, is unclear and I don’t know what exactly lies at the end of my comfort zone. But I’m moving on and I’m yelling to anyone who will listen that I’m going beyond!
There is pain in the goodbyes, there is hurt in the leaving, but there is excitement in the new beginning and hope for the future at the same time and while the pain and hurt remain, going on isn’t all bad. A little like Hansel and Gretel, when we move on we leave crumbs of ourselves behind, making a trail for us to retrace when we need to revisit the past and find a little sanctuary in our old nests.
So to sum this up, I wonder if you, like me, are preparing to move on somewhere and go beyond. I wonder if you are facing this month with some fear and anxiety over leaving the familiar behind and walking into something new and uncomfortable (like a pair of stiff new school shoes!). I wonder if actually you’ve stopped, refusing to go on, because you’re out of breath and in pain, but now you’re stuck, miles from home and not going anywhere. Well remember the wisdom of Professor Albus Percival Wulfrick Brian Dumbledore and of little Cecile, the key to life is go beyond and to go on.
For those of us going on and for those scared to go beyond, I pray to the God who loves us where we are are, but too much to leave us there that he would continue to lead us on, calling us beyond our comfort zones. I pray that while there may be pain and hurt in leaving the past behind, we would know hope in the future our eternal Father holds for us.