This month, I am moving to my fourth seminary office. I started teaching at Palmer Theological Seminary 15 years ago. My first office was next to the bathroom and, because I had an open door policy when I was in my office, my wise students used to say that it was good to stop to see their Church History Professor on the way to the bathroom! When the administrators moved to a different floor, I inherited a very spacious, strategically placed office which I enjoyed for almost 10 years. When we moved to a different campus, I again inherited a very spacious office right across from the main classrooms.
This year we are moving to yet another campus and my new office is 83 square feet, which is 2/3 less space than the one I had before. Certain realities hit me at odd times. As I was driving recently, I figured out that the length of my car was about 9 feet long and my office will be 9 feet by 9 feet. I started to laugh because now I have to reduce my library and leave my current desk because it would up take more than half of the new office space.
This upcoming move made me think about permanence and transiency. The Bible talks about our life as transient and presents us as pilgrims on earth traveling towards a city whose builder is God. Everything on this earth is transient. While we should place roots, we should remember that they are not permanent.
There are times when permanence seemed to have more glue than at other times. I was born and lived in the same house for the first 15 years of my life. We left our home and our country and lived in three refugee camps in Italy for a period of 16 months. From the refugee camp, we moved to Akron, Ohio, but we stayed there just a few weeks before we moved to Detroit. In less than a year, we rented three different departments in Detroit which we had to leave because the owners sold them while we were still living in them. Finally, my exasperated family bought our first house where we lived for ten years. My family lived in that house while I finished high school, college, and seminary and then moved to the West Coast. I rented an apartment for 5 years in Hightstown, New Jersey and when Ginny and I married we bought our first house in Glendale Heights, Illinois. Within the last 25 years of our married life, we have lived in the parsonage of Central Baptist Church here in Atlantic Highlands.
Permanence and transiency are experienced in different ways. In the academic and pastoral life, there are times when one is retained and promoted because your experience is appreciated. But there are also times when youthful enthusiasm is a desired commodity and experience becomes secondary. There are times when connections make a difference and there are times when a different pharaoh wants a different entourage as the new future is being created.
Sometimes God places people in our lives to distribute medicine that we do not enjoy, but we see that it has been one of the best things that God has given us. When I was in Chicago and became immersed in creating a great organization, one of the trustees said to us in a meeting, “Enjoy life, enjoy your health, enjoy your family, and remember that for every organization you are replaceable.” We were young and did not believe that we were replaceable. It was tough medicine to take but, once I swallowed it, it did me a lot of good. I stayed in places as long as I felt that God wanted me to stay and was smart enough to leave before they fired me.