Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Of Loss, Grief, and Change

Yes - it has been a while since I wrote anything in this space. The last thing I wrote was about my current schedule and whether or not I could sustain it. The answer is yes, but not easily. Much has had to change.

Many of the recent changes have not been ones we planned for. For example, during the last couple of months of school, I ended up driving a school bus more days than not. I had hoped to cut back on the number of days I drove, but a serious need by the schools I drive for and some loss that meant I needed extra money won out.

The first loss was in my ham radio equipment. I apparently suffered a lighting strike that I was not aware of until I realized that my antenna was not working well which soon turned into the radio not working well either. From all reports, the radio suffered severe damage (not repairable without spending more than a new radio cost); and the antenna is also not repairable without spending more than it is worth. Trying to earn some extra money to replace this equipment was part of the reason to drive the school bus more.

Another reason for the extra money was so that I could go to the Dayton Hamvention in Dayton, Ohio. This event occurs every year, but last year and this year were the first opportunities I have had to go with a group (thus saving a lot of money). This year was the first (and maybe only time) that the stars will align and I can make the schedule work out. It was a great trip and a lot of fun. I hope to be able to go again some day.

Then the next loss - my Jeep died. This was a major loss - both in terms of financial setback and grief. I have driven Jeeps for the last 20 years. I have gone places I could not have gotten to otherwise. We have been to Camp Jeep three times (twice in Virginia and once in Arkansas). They were great fun and experiences we will never forget. We have not been for almost 10 years, and I still tell stories from our time there. Not only did the Jeep die, the part was worth more than the value of the Jeep (2004 with 192K miles). Worse yet, I had already been debating some other vehicle because of gas mileage. Since I am doing ministry in three places, the nearest being 12 miles away, and the next 12 miles in a different direction, and the third being another 9 miles past the second place, I am putting on a lot of miles. An average of 2,700 each month. The one problem with Jeep is that they have never improved the gas mileage (I understand that the 2015 will have a fuel-efficient diesel option which gets about 25 MPG, for about $40k), and I really needed to get better than 19 MPG.

Since the Jeep died in the drive-way and I was pretty sure it was some type of computer/electrical failure, I had it towed to the dealership where I have had other service work done (including the new transmission three years ago). The part was almost $1000, plus labor, plus the other electrical problem I had not had time/money to repair, plus the new tires it was going to need. The bottom line was it just needed too much work.

After having tried several other vehicles and realizing that many of them were just too short (no head-room for me) and that others gave no better gas mileage, and yet others had all that but cost way too much, we drove a Dodge Journey (basically back to a station wagon). The size is good, the gas mileage is an improvement, and since it only has 26K miles on it, I should be good for a few years.

I really like the car, but I miss my Jeep. I grieve the loss of my Jeep. There are places I know I can't get to without 4 wheel drive. I have to figure out new storage places and a new way to install my ham radio. The controls are not where they used to be. So much is different. Change is hard. Loss is hard. And yet, this is the way of life.

As I deal with these losses and changes in my life, I understand why change in the church is so hard for some people. Everything around them is changing, and the one thing they think should remain the same is the church. The problem is, the church has to change for many of the same reasons. Some things are too worn out or too expensive to maintain. Some things just don't fit any more. Some things have to change so we can afford other things. Loss of members, loss of income, loss of leadership - all these require us to evaluate how we do things and most likely - we have to change and adapt. There is loss here akin to the loss we feel when someone dies. There is grief here akin to the grief we have when someone dies. There is change - life will never again be the same. But we must remember - it is God who is unchanging, not the church. The church must change, adapt, reform - constantly - or it will die. The same is true with us. I could have gone in dept to repair my much loved Jeep and kept it on the road for a while longer, but how long? What part would fail next? How much would it cost? At what point do I decide that enough money has gone into a vehicle that does not get good enough gas mileage and that is continuing to rack up miles at a high rate?

The same is true of the church. We must adapt and change. We must make decisions based not on how we used to do it, but what can we afford and what will work today. Loss, grief, and change. They are never easy, but they are a constant part of life.