Advent 1: Leaving

Leaving is less exciting than arriving; often more uncomfortable.

But there are no arrivals without it, so it’s a constant feature of our journey, an integral part of our sanity, of our discovering undiscovered life.

I’m aware, for instance, that people who helped me twenty years ago, who were angels in that moment, could probably not help me now.

Circumstances change, we change. I’ve had to leave

So, what have you had to leave in your life – a role, a community, a person, a belief, a place? All of the above?

And what’s your relationship with leaving?

The wise men had to leave something known in order to find something unknown.

Jesus, against his family’s wishes, had to leave home to find his voice.

I don’t imagine he knew what he was going to as he made his way out of Nazareth.

He was walking into the unknown, into the wilderness – and that was OK. He just knew he had to leave.

It may not always feel good to leave. We may leave with feelings of sadness, unhappiness or anger.

But then sometimes it’s these things that remind us to leave. We may need impetus to help us go, a fracture or dissonance of some sort.

It can be hard to let go. But as Anthony de Mello reminds us, ‘If the blanket isn’t keeping you warm, get a new blanket.’

When I left the priesthood eighteen years ago, it didn’t feel good; I just knew I had to go, the adventure was over.

Life was difficult afterwards, my own wilderness. I had no plan. But the wilderness never made me question the decision.

And the wilderness became life.

So we’re pondering leaving; pondering the things we’ve had to leave behind – a role, a place, a community, a belief, a person.

Or maybe a Whatsapp group. I know a woman who recently left a Whatsapp group that was set up to support her and a few others in their professional role.

But she left it in the end, because it was just a conduit of endless negativity, and it didn’t help her. The others were upset; but she knew, for her own wellbeing, she had to leave it.

Maybe there is sadness as you reflect on things left behind; maybe thankfulness and relief. Maybe both.

It was Cardinal Newman who said that ‘Life is change. And to be perfect is to have changed often.’

There’s a nice sense of flow in those words, life as a meandering river, passing through different scenery.

What was helpful once may not be helpful now. People or places that were helpful once, may not be helpful now.

And so sometimes – like Jesus exiting Nazareth, like the Wise Men setting out in pursuit of the star – we leave.

And not because we have anywhere to go; we just know we can’t stay.

And sometimes, that’s enough.


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