When he was in his 40s, Moses killed a man.
When he was in his 40s, Joshua killed a lot of men.
I haven't killed anybody (yet)(that I know of).
In Exodus 17, Moses had just led God's people out of Egypt. It was a high point in his life. God had come through for him in a big way, rescuing the people from Egypt and leading them through the Red Sea.
We know a little bit about the rest of the story, 40 years wandering through a desert. But Moses didn't know that. For all he knew, after a short hike the Israelites would enter the land of promise.
So, Moses' interaction with Joshua in Exodus 17 looks really interesting. It looks like the start of a succession plan.
The Amalekites came and attacked the Israelites at Rephidim. Moses, their leader, didn't lead the fight. He handed that responsibility on to Joshua.
Moses knew that he couldn't fight forever. I can't fight forever. Neither can you.
One of the hardest things about ministry is facing the reality that you can't do it forever. We put so much of our lives into the work, even more if we do the work well. It's hard to think about building something and handing it over.
Moses started the transition while he was still around, could still provide guidance, could still help.
While Joshua leads the army in battle against the Amalekites, Moses prays. He lifts his hands to the Lord. He raises the staff of God.
What do we do when transition looms near?
Do we accept its inevitability and prepare well?
Do we look to bless the leader coming behind us?
Do we raise up godly Staff?
You can't fight forever.
It's hard to do this. I find in myself a hiccup, a desire to resist this reality.
I'm tempted to push beyond my limits and to live like this is going to go on forever. I was tempted to push it at Washington and Lee, to try to stay for one more year. I love this group of seniors. I wanted to make it though their last year. But I couldn't.
This was the year to make the transition, if we were going to do what was best for the ministry and best for the students. If I left this year, I'd give the person coming behind me (who turned out to be Kevin) the best chance of succeeding. Kevin has the best student leadership team a Staff has ever had. And the students get the experience of seeing a young, energetic, outgoing, extremely deep and mature Staff at his A game.
And even that is, at times, difficult.
At every turn along the way, Kevin is outpacing me. And that's what I want. And that's, at times, difficult.
I wonder if people ask "Why didn't we make this change years ago?" or "What was it that Steve did with all his time?" Not really. I mean, it doesn't bug me much. But it is part of the cost of transitioning well.
Transition well and you won't feel missed much. And as much as we say that this isn't about us, we all want to be missed.
When we transition well, we don't hear the "The whole thing is falling apart. Wish you were here. It was so much better when you were here." No, we're missed in other ways. The occassional phone call. Random Facebook wall posts. Visits. Gratifying, but not for that itchy spot of ego.
The rest of me wants Kevin to succeed, wants the ministry to grow and thrive, wants more students to be served and cared for. I'm a big man (weight-wise) and the bulk of my heart wants the transition to go smoothly.
And, praise God, it is.
I can't fight forever. But right now, I'm raising my hands, praying, advising, guiding, networking, doing whatever I can and whatever seems helpful.
Transition is difficult but inevitable. Do it well.