Somewhere in my mind, I had thought that the time to say goodbye would come on Wednesday. So you can imagine my surprise when Monday I learned that we would indeed be saying our farewells on Tuesday night. Well, you actually might not be able to imagine my surprise and all the emotions that came with it.
You see, my home director is the woman who has been accompanying me for the last two years. In the olden days, she would have been referred to as the Directress or Mistress of Novices. Today, her title is Formation/ Novice Director. Either option is pretty sterile; one evokes the image of a larger than life figure charged with the task of "making nuns" (I imagine the towering figures who formed groups of nearly a hundred novices at a time), the other image is nondescript- (formation director? bleh. What the heck does that mean?)
Until two years ago, my director and I didn't even know each other; Over the ensuing time, we have spent countless hours together. She has taught my classes, lived in community with me, been my guide in the congregation, and listened to the state of my heart with deep compassion. Her charge is simply (ha!) to direct me. That is, to craft my formation as a Sister of Saint Joseph, track my growth, and discern with me the compatibility of this congregation and myself. For, as I look at the SSJs, they also look at me and it is her job to aid that looking (from both sides).
Without a doubt, she has earned the title Director. Through ups and downs, she has stood by my side, advocating for my needs and making sure that they were never lost in the shuffle. She is the one I have turned to in the midst of chaos and confusion. When my grandfather lay in a coma this winter, she was the one on the phone offering to bring sandwiches to my family as we sat at his bedside. She is the person, who just months before I began my novitiate, I calmly called to inform that I'd been hit by a car while riding my bicycle. She is the one I, literally, have shared my life with. Day or night her door is open, her phone is on, and her heart is receptive to whatever might arise. She has taken everything in stride and I couldn't be more grateful. What she does is not a job, it is a ministry and it is so much more.
So, when I awoke Tuesday morning recognizing that within twelve hours we would be "apart" for the next eight months, all I could do was text her: Can we just skip today?
Because, really, that's all I wanted to do. Skip the day. Leaving Philadelphia had been hard enough; now I was being asked to say goodbye to the person who'd traveled this road with me. To, in a way, tell her it was alright to go...to leave me in this new city... with these new people... all alone.
The answer, of course, was no. No skipping. She was more clever about it but nonetheless the sentiment was there. This is a transition that will be fruitful. This experience is worth it. You are ready. I will never leave you and, even more than that, God will never ever leave you.
I knew it. God is here. Jesus has led me to this point and there is no way he's going to just leave me empty handed in Chicago. The God I've grown so deeply in love with in Philadelphia stands with open arms to welcome me to this next stage of my formation. Without a doubt, God is the director.
And the words of a Jesuit friend of mine echo in my ears: Transitions suck. God is awesome.
As I embark on this next leg of the journey, I must remember that. God is awesome. You can't control change, you can only manage transition. No matter all that is new in this time- the One who has led me here is constant. In the midst of the whirlwind of emotions and experiences that this first week has been, I know that God's grace and love abound even as I feel a physical absence in my heart of someone who has meant and means so much to me. The space that is being and has been carved out in me is a place for God to more deeply reside. And as I hold tight in trust to these loving promises from God, I know I can't skip these days. They are important. They are given freely and lovingly without reservation from God. Just as a wonderful stranger turned director turned friend was given to me. And nothing in the world would ever make me want to give that up.