This post is about my religious life and has references to my faith and the organization of our church. While I've tried to make it as general and explanatory as possible, you are welcome to skip this post.
Since 2002, nearly every school day, I've been getting up at the odd hour of 4:45 am or so and opening my home at 5:50 am to anywhere from 12-22 high-schoolers for a 50-minute scripture study class. This has been my assignment for our church, in which we have a lay ministry and everyone works as a volunteer to get things done. Most days, I spent from 1-3 hours on preparation for my lesson. The kids always came, so I always had to be ready (even though, much to my chagrin, I slept in and missed it, on average, once a year). The class is called Seminary, and it does what you might think a seminary does. It gives kids the opportunity to prepare for what can be a satisfying life of service as a disciple of Christ. In our church, people don't do one job for their whole life, like a priest or a nun or a pastor, and we don't take vows of celibacy or poverty. What we do promise at our baptism is to be disciples of Christ and be witnesses of him as we go about an otherwise ordinary life. One scripture explains it as being willing to be called God's people and as such bear one another's burdens, to mourn with those that mourn and comfort those who stand in need of comfort. It isn't about piety or mere declarations of being saved, it is about going about and trying to do good. And so we hold seminary, to help the kids get to know the God they've chosen to serve. Hopefully, they come away from the process knowing that He loves them just as they are. That was always my first priority.
What we did specifically was study scriptures and talk about religious subjects in a combination academic/spiritual atmosphere. It was a safe place where the kids could ask me anything and they would be respected. I've had all sorts come through my door, from faithful, enthusiastic kids who enjoy being members of our church and participate fully to doubtful kids who don't know what they believe and don't even attend church regularly but for some reason made it to my house every day before 6 am. All were welcomed, even the occasional non-member. I may have forgotten a few, but the list I made of all my students over the last 7 school years has 48 names on it. About half I'm still in touch with and the other half I'm always working on getting back in touch with. Many are still active in church, many are not. About 9 that are old enough have served or are currently serving missions like my son Johnathan. 3 are already married and 2 of those have a child. At least 4 have received Bachelor's degrees, and 1 is a secret service agent helping guard the President. The rest are still in school, engaged, working, hanging out and everything else a young person would be doing.
On Friday, that assignment ended. I am no longer a seminary teacher. The term used is released. It happens all the time that we change assignments and have the opportunity to learn something else and serve in a new way. For me it is a really big change simply because of how long I did it and the way pretty much my whole lifestyle revolved around the assignment: When I got up each day, how I used my time, etc.. It always seems to sound strange to those not of my faith (and many of my faith-seminary is not necessarily a "desirable" assignment), but really, all of us everywhere bend our lives around things we believe in or are necessary or that we just enjoy: parenting, work, hobbies, blogging, tv shows, etc, so why not a religious assignment? So it was for me. Now I have to bend my life some new way. Sure, I feel free. I'll be able to sleep longer(eventually at least, when my biological clock stops waking me up automatically at 4:45). I suddenly have time I didn't have before. I can go to bed without worrying that I'm well-enough prepared to give the kids what they need. My family won't have to set up any more chairs or deal with me always having them AND a bunch of other people's children on my mind. So in a hundred different ways, it is a release, and I'm grateful.
It is a loss for me though, for the same reasons as above. I put so much into it. I really love the kids and will miss them. So very much. It was a privilege having them in my home and I was lifted by them and their willingness to find out for themselves what was true. They inspire me-every day it was like a miracle-they're all here! Again! I came to love the scriptures and understand them better. I definitely feel a sense of let-down, but I know that will pass, especially since I'm pretty sure some other assignment will come down the road pretty soon. I have no clue what it will be, though. That's okay. I have plenty of other things to fill my time.
Plus, I've started watching Lost. From the very beginning...