The best laid schemes o' Mice an' Men,
Gang aft agley,
An' lea'e us nought but grief an' pain,
For promis'd joy!~ Robert Burns
When my wife made the decision to move to
to attend school full time, I promised to join her within the next year. By mid-summer I had made arrangements to switch from “settled” pastoral ministry to “intentional” interim ministry, which meant taking additional courses for certification. The plan was simple: Louisville
- Resign as pastor of
St. Johnand move to at the end of November Louisville
- Put household goods in storage and stay in the apartment in my mother’s basement until after the first certification class
- Attend initial certification class in
, in early January Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
From the moment I began the implementation of the plan, the lives of Muffin and me changed. I had less time to take Muffin walks. Muffin was confused about all of the activities in the parsonage: packing stuff, going through property belonging to my wife and two sons; making arrangements for auctioning off items I decided not to move. More than once Muffin intercepted me in the hallway and barked that I really ought to sit down, relax, and pet her. She was right.
In late August or early September my wife visited to help me decide on how to dispose of some of the stuff. It was then that she informed me that she wanted to be married “only a little bit” and as of that moment considered us formally separated.
I felt as if I had been kicked in the head by a mule! If we were separated, then why was I making this move from a church I had pastored for over ten years to
and interim ministry? Louisville
Muffin ministered to me. When I would sit in a chair staring at nothing, she would sit beside me, usually licking my hand or face until I was willing to get up and on with life. One evening a parishioner came by the parsonage on her way to watch her son play basketball at the city gym which was behind the church. We sat in the living room rather than then my study. Of course, Muffin sat beside me.
Marsha knew—the whole congregation knew—what was going on between my wife and me. A couple of the elderly women had even told me a year before when my wife moved into the dormitory in Louisville that I had better follow her fast or our marriage was over.
As we sat in the living room, Marsha said, “You know, Nick, when I was going through my horrible divorce a few years ago a very wise man told me that the pain wouldn’t last for ever. It just seemed like it would. Then he gave me a hug. And he was right. The healing came. That wise man was you and I hope you can listen to your own wisdom and know that there are many of us in this community reaching out to you as you reached out to us.”
Then she gave me a hug and, of course, Muffin, who never wanted to be left out of hugs, joined in.
The week before the move four of the widows in the congregation, a couple of the men, and a teenage girl who wasn’t part of the congregation but who I had counseled for a couple of years all came to the parsonage to help with the final packing. Muffin alternated between trying to help and territorially barking, “Don’t touch that!”
On the day of the move the same folks were there, plus two more parishioners and their friends to load and go with me to unload my stuff in
. The teenager had permission from her family to go along and she rode with me in the big rental truck, holding Muffin in her lap. Muffin was, of course, excited about going for a ride and had no idea that out lives were changing forever. Louisville
Part IX of The Muffin Saga will be posted next Sunday.