When I knew I was leaving The Seattle School, it occurred to me that I felt like a book that had been on inter-library loan. Perhaps somehow the kingdom of God was like a big inter-connected library system.
The metaphor captured the strong sense I have had from the early days of my tenure at The Seattle School that I had been called to this work—but also ‘lent’ by a different library. My Canadian heritage made me distinct, even though I looked the same and (except for a few words) spoke the same language.
The metaphor also worked in the sense that I had that I was a resource for many projects—of students and of the institution as a whole.
Often I felt like I spoke for the goodness and the breadth of the Christian tradition to people who mostly knew a narrow, debilitating form of that tradition. The goodness of God and the richness of the intellectual and spiritual legacy of two millennia of Christian thought and practice always seemed like an enormous open space to me, inviting and nourishing, and I was glad to share my perspective.
But if you have requested an inter-library loan book, it is because you do not have this volume in your library, and there was a certain sense that as long as I stayed, the school could rely on someone else’s book. Eventually I realized that the school had built up its own collection, opening its own spaces. I felt free to move on.
I entered into a conversation with leadership at Ambrose University that helped me to see that all my gifts could be used in this new location. I could step into a new role as dean, taking all I had learned during my experiences as professor at The Seattle School at a time when I was able to help it build up its own collection. This opened up the possibility that I could move home to the Canadian prairies for this last season of my work before I am ‘weeded’ from the library—to push the metaphor a bit too far.
The great gift of The Seattle School to me is a strong sense that I contribute to an academic institution not just with what I do, but also by who I am. I now live more consciously in the awareness that God smiles on me like a friend who welcomes me to participate in the work of grace that is God’s constant gift to us. Or perhaps God smiles most like a doting parent, sometimes with pride and sometimes with a shaking of the head—but always glad for the ways I have grown into a more mature ‘volume.’