This post will be short and offer some reflections on my commissioning, largely through the lens of what I wish I had been able to say during the church service at Trinity Presbyterian Church, my home church. You see, I meant to offer an unplanned, but meaningful statement during our “Joys and Concerns” period of the service. But upon getting the words, “Thanks for 22 years” out of my mouth, I found myself so choked up and teary-eyed that I clearly could not continue. I chose to say “And that’s all” and pass the microphone on, instead of subject the congregation to the blubbery mess that was me, Kyle Coombs.
For those who do not know me well, the situation I just described is very rare for me. I often pride myself on the ability to get through emotional moments with dry eyes. Graduations? No problem. Marriages? A breeze. Funerals? A heavy heart, but no tears. Still for some reason, I found myself too choked up to utter anymore words after my commissioning and it’s been on my mind since. The best answer, I’ve found, is in what I would have said to the congregation at Trinity had I been able to continue on. So, I’ll write that here for all readers, many of whom are members of Trinity:
“I don’t have a particularly poetic way to say this, but thanks for 22 years. That’s really not enough. There are no words or gifts to truly recognize or repay the monumental role this congregation has played in my life. It’s a frustratingly beautiful limitation. You’ve been so wonderful to me, I can’t find words that do not feel lackluster in their description. Still, I’d be remiss not to try.
“So let me start by saying that I have never felt anything so powerful as the laying on of hands during my commissioning. I’m not sure what it was, but when half this congregation before us rose to relay their love, faith, and support through a physical touch, I shook. I felt tears weighing in my eyes and a presence that I have never felt before.
“I’ve never been one for the fantastical faith. I don’t know what it is like to have the Holy Spirit pass through you. During confirmation class, we visited a Baptist church and a women started to speak in tongues behind us. At 14 I was interested, but mostly concerned for her well-being. So how could I feel some new presence? What could this be?
“Truthfully, I think it was the Holy Spirit. I’m on unsteady ground bringing this up, but the whole experience was unsteady.
“It’s funny that this happen before I head off, because I’ve had trouble remembering to include religion in my thoughts for ‘the future year. It seems silly. The whole reason I am going is the Presbyterian Church. It’s a program through the PC(USA). It’s an incredible opportunity and one funded through mission, but I’ve always been the down-to-earth type.
My faith motivates my social justice, so service is the best way to live out my faith. It’s what I learned at Trinity, a la our mission verse Micah 6:8, “Do justice, love kindness, walk humbly with your God.” We’re action first Christians. We go on countless work camps, serve at Equinox and SICM Summer Lunch Program. While I’m mentioning SICM, we’ve sent countless full-time volunteers. We do incredible work, so it wasn’t hard to learn the lessons of social justice.
“So I’m kinda out of my element because during my last Sunday, you’ve shown me something completely different. Another part of faith. The part I struggle with. The intangible, spiritual, inexplicable part. The stuff that brings tears to your eyes as you feel overwhelmed with God’s love alongside the sadness at leaving your congregation.
“And that’s what I needed before I headed out. A reminder that there is more to my work than my desire to follow Micah 6:8. That there is a higher calling to it all and to fall back on. I didn’t know how much I needed that message until you, the members of Trinity, gave it to me.
“So, I offer you a thanks for 22 years of learning just what it means to live out the meaning of Micah 6:8 and today for helping me realize the power in just being Christian. In feeling a call. I’m not one to openly speak like this. I’m always too concerned about how others will perceive my Christianity, but for now I am too enthused and full of the gift you offered me today. And so I thank you again for 22 years and many more to come.”
So, that’s a rough idea of what I would have liked to have said. Of course it wouldn’t have been that long because I get carried away when there’s a keyboard, but you get the general idea. I guess my point is, I was overwhelmed spiritually and emotionally today in a way I never have been before and that led to tears instead of the words above. The rarity of this outcome underscores how profoundly powerful today was. If that’s how my YAV year is starting, I cannot wait to see where it takes me and what role Trinity will play in the months to come.