The FedEx guy dropped off my rental cap and gown this morning. The culmination of 11 years of the academy was stuffed into a small box with my name on it. I crammed the tam onto my head to check fit, and I thought of all the other noggins that had rented this particular cap. It should have been humbling, but it was amusing. Heads stuffed with knowledge, now stuffing their heads into caps that reeked of dry-cleaning fumes.
It looked ridiculous.
It doesn’t look nearly as ridiculous as the rental gown, however. I knew when I looked at the requested measurements (height, weight) that I should have included a note. I’m a bit… fluffier… in some areas than other folks. I opted to go with the “they are the professionals, they’ve got this” approach… and ended up with a gown that is several sizes too small. Proof that a degree means little unless paired with common sense.
Worst case scenario is that I’ll head to the fabric store, pick up some velvet and attach doctoral bars to my old black pulpit gown. It figures. 11 years of the academy, and it will be my crafting skills that save the day.
To use an old Saturday Night Live refrain, “It’s always something”. Or, my own personal motto, “It’s never done when we think it’s done.”*
Consider all the big moments in life and you’ll see all the work that leads to the main event, and then the trail of work that follows. It’s never done when we think it’s done. We work hard at pulling together “the big day”, only to realize that all the days that follow are somehow bigger and more challenging. We may graduate, get married, have kids, buy a house, run a marathon, write a book, perform in a stage production, start a new job, retire… and there’s always something more to do. It’s never done when we think it’s done.
We crawl into bed at the conclusion of one day, and birdsong greets us the next morning (complete with new challenges.) This is the pattern of life that we’ve learned from the very beginning. It’s never done when we think it’s done.
Perhaps that’s why we cling to some traditions in our churches. We know the world changes moment by moment. We know that nothing remains the same… but we honestly grieve when something changes at church. I believe this is because we desire constancy in some area of our life. A sense of completion. We want just one thing to be as it always has been.
I can’t predict the future, but I do know that every day after this one will be different. Our churches have already changed. Y’all don’t need to see the demographic charts to know that overall, we’re getting older and less… fluffy… in terms of folks in the pew. There is collective grief in knowing that what has been a central and stabilizing part of our own lives is forever changed.
God never changes.
It’s never done when we think it’s done.
Those two thoughts taken together give me great hope and make my head hurt. If I’m honest, the latter makes my heart hurt as well. I don’t know what happens next to our churches. I do trust that God’s got this, however.
*In reality, I’m really NOT done with this degree. The dissertation is in the hands of my readers who will determine if I can “stand for the defense”. If they deem I’m ready, I’ll defend on May 3rd… and graduate on May 7th. Oh, and then there will be additional tweaks to the dissertation, someone who checks to make sure my formatting is on point… and THEN I’ll be done. Maybe.