Milestones are funny things. They just show up right in the middle of your ordinary days. If you're lucky, they warn you with a feeling in your gut that this is important — pay attention. Today was one of those days.
Today, our son Adrian announced he was leaving our church fellowship.
It feels like the end of an era. Our family of five won’t worship together anymore. Not on Mother's Day next week, not on ordinary Wednesday nights, and not on Easter Sunday.
And this is a good thing.
It means he's ready. He's a man of his own faith now after 21 years of our leading, teaching, correcting, watching, praying, coaxing, rejecting, repositioning, forgiving, cheering – and receiving a little of each of these on the parent end along the way, too.
God has opened a ministry opportunity to Adrian that has been blossoming slowly. Just over a year ago, he began playing acoustic guitar in the band at another church in town for their Wednesday night youth services. As of Easter Sunday, that role has expanded into worship leader of an entirely new Sunday service. Their church is growing, and beginning a new service was their way to expand. It's a modern, contemporary service with all brand new music. Think Jesus Culture and Elevation Worship.
Adrian is planning worship services, leading a new band, coordinating musicians, singers, technicians, overseeing sound equipment, and answering to the youth minister and the senior pastor. He prefers to see his position as lead worshipper rather than Worship Leader.
About a month ago, our pastor of worship was on vacation, and Adrian filled in. I hadn't seen him lead worship since he had begun doing it weekly at Northside Baptist, and seeing him lead worship that day was like watching him do what he was created for. I've since described it like this: He is more "himself" when he's leading worship than when he's doing any other thing he's ever done.
This morning, he told his musical worship story from the beginning, when he bought an electric blue electric guitar from my cousin on an installment plan in 6th grade, determined to learn to play. After switching to acoustic soon after (How do I thank you, John Mayer?), he begged to be a part of our praise band, and was finally welcomed aboard at the tender age of 13. He led his first youth worship service in September 2009.
For eight years, from the second row, I watched him grow musically, spiritually, physically, emotionally, mentally. He's been frustrated, exhilarated, challenged. Things have gone great, badly, according to plan, and off key.
Until Mike's mother passed two years ago, we had the blessing of four generations of Gonzálezes in our church. Because of this, some in our church family, even some Gonzálezes, may not see Adrian's leaving as a good thing — but it is.
Maybe one day he'll be back; maybe not. But that's not the point. The point is that God can use us if we avail ourselves to him, and often that leads us away from places of familiarity, places where we've settled into complacency, and places where ministry is comfortable, predictable, and hence, easy (if that can be said of ministry – ever).
It will be good for Adrian to expand his identity beyond being the PK, beyond the shadow of his father's ministry, which Adrian called a legacy this morning. It's time. It's the next step in Adrian's growth as his own independent adult with cord cut.
We want him to stand tall in the light of God on his own, not hanging onto his dad's coattails, but standing firm upon his foundation of faith and ministry, and looking forward with his guitar strapped firmly over his shoulder and his songwriter-heart fixed on Him who will lead the way into a ministry all his own, not attached to his father. We would never want to limit him or hold him back.
One morning twenty plus years ago, I snapped his footed pjs back together and lifted him, clean diaper, from my bed and stood him up on the floor to hold on to the edge. He cruised down to the foot of the bed, where he sat down, turned around, and crawled out of my bedroom without so much as a glance behind him. Before I stood up and followed him out, I said to myself, that's just the first of many times he will leave me. Little did I know how much I would need each small leaving. They would build upon one another with growing consequence and graduate in degree of separation. That is as it should be — we both needed the practice.
Today we celebrated all we've watched God do in Adrian's life. Our pastors, including his dad, his uncle, a fellow band member, and two that were his youth pastors, drew near to him and blessed him in his going. Now his new ministry opportunity can begin without division, but with blessing and a sending out, in the fullness of joy. It's a both/and, not a either/or proposition, and the best kind of leaving there can be.