Public and private

One of the struggles of my life is the balance of being a public person and a private person at the same time. Even as I write it, I know it sounds strange. From inside of me, I feel like I am a very private person. I don’t crave attention. I like just being at home with my family. I prefer to see others in center stage. And yet I have a job where I stand up in front of a congregation and speak publicly every week. I address large crowds on occasion. I am asked to pray in public places on public occasions. But there is always a part of me that is uncomfortable being the center of attention. I still get nervous every week before I walk into the chancel of the church. I am at home in my role in the church. I have confidence when I speak to the people I serve, but there is always a bit of me that would like to have someone else be the center of attention. I have written a lot of liturgies that have been read by other people. Often those who hear those words assume that the person who is reading them wrote them. I don’t mind. I feel flattered when others ask for copies of my sermons or journal posts or prayers or other things that I have written.

I think I could have been happy as a speech writer for a famous person, but I couldn’t write well things with which I disagree, and I think speech writers have to do that on a fairly regular basis.

At any rate, I have discovered a new awkwardness to my life that occurs when others announce my plans before I’m ready to have them announced. It takes me a long time to make certain decisions. I like to keep my options open and ponder them. I like to try out various options before i make a commitment. As we have pondered the next phase of our life, it seems that my ideas have been made public on others’ time and not in the way I thought they might be announced. Over a year ago now, I met with our Pastoral Relations Committee and explored with them the timing of the end of my call to this congregation. It is complex because both my wife and I work for the same church and the timing will be the same for both of us. It is complex because we want to do what is best for the congregation and yet we also have to be aware of the financial realities of being the age that we are and the challenges with finding other employment at this phase of our lives. So I tested the waters with colleagues and then with the committee, exploring various options. Then, after meeting with the committee, I went on sabbatical, thinking it would be a good time to contemplate and explore options. The committee, however, thought it would be a good time to poll the congregation on the issue of timing, effectively announcing my leaving the congregation when I wasn’t even in town. I felt like the discussion became public before I was ready for it. It certainly forced my hand. We had to put a date on the calendar.

It was a sense of deja-vu on Saturday night as I rose to offer the invocation at a large fundraising gala and the CEO of the organization announced to all who had gathered that I will soon be moving away from Rapid City. I guess that is what is going to happen, but I wasn’t really ready to make the announcement. Since that announcement, nearly every conversation with my friends and acquaintances around town has begun with “Where are you planning to move?” The pharmacist, a friend I ran into at the store, members of our congregation, and others have all been asking me that question.

It isn’t that we don’t have a plan. We do have a general sense of where we will be going. But things aren’t firmed up. We haven’t prepared our home to list it on the market. We don’t know the exact timing. We have no specific neighborhood in mind, just a sense that it is time for us to be closer to our family. After a career of moving where the church called us, we are not experienced in making an independent move and choosing the location all by ourselves. We haven’t selected a church, or chosen a neighborhood, or checked out our options. All of those things have been handed to us in past moves. This time we are on our own and are a bit intimidated by the process. And this time there is no firm deadline. Although we have a date for the end of our call to this church, we don’t have a date for beginning the next phase of our lives. It isn’t like the times when everything was planned around a start date of a new job.

I would prefer to have all of those details worked out in private conversation with family and friends. But they are beginning to play out in public. Inquiring minds want to know.

When we moved here from Idaho we had just accepted the call to this church when we met with a realtor to make a list of things we wanted to change in our home before we put it on the market. The realtor asked if the home could be shown as is the next day. It was shown at lunch, we had an offer in the evening and the home was sold before we were ready to move out. We ended up negotiating an arrangement to rent the home back from the buyer so that we had a place to live until we found a new home and got moved. It turned out to be a very good arrangement. Maybe part of this process is letting go of control. Maybe I don’t have to be in charge. Maybe it is best if a committee or a friend make the decisions about when and where to announce our decisions. After all I’m not very good at those kinds of public announcements anyway.

Now that it has been announced that I’m moving, I guess I’d better get busy and decide where that will be.

Copyright (c) 2019 by Ted E. Huffman. I wrote this. If you would like to share it, please direct your friends to my web site. If you'd like permission to copy, please send me an email. Thanks!