Judi Jackson ponders the challenge of leaving ‘home’ after almost 22 years on campus
By Dr. Judi Jackson
I’m not good at goodbyes.
I like to meet people, make them feel welcome, and look for small ways to invest in their lives. I prefer to have an abundance of time to do this, rarely giving thought to the day we will be geographically separated.
When we came back to NOBTS in 1994 for my husband Allen to join the faculty, we began spending time with several student couples who were studying youth ministry. The fellowship was sweet and the energy of the mentoring relationships was reciprocal. However, when graduation rolled around for these couples, I found myself feeling frustrated and cheated. “God, why did you bring these precious people in our lives only to take them away?”
After another cycle or two of this, the rhythm became more natural and I found myself excited for students as they graduated and looked forward to the next thing God had in store for them outside the confines of the seminary gates and the burdens of relentless course requirements. Needless to say, I’ve said goodbye to quite a few in the last 22 years on campus.
Now it’s our turn to leave. This is not a leaving we have planned for years and years. It’s not one we anticipated like one does graduation. But it is one that has us looking forward to what God has in store outside the gates of this amazing institution. And, while we’re leaving behind the 504 in a physical sense, we will certainly stay connected with continuing opportunities to teach internet classes and in weekend workshops and seminars.
Some parting thoughts:
- Wherever you are, be all there. When the search committee at our new church interviewed me, I was asked if I would miss NOBTS. I responded, “Of course, I will. We’ve been back in the city almost 22 years. It’s where I’m from and it’s where I raised my family. I put down roots and grew in so many ways. I love my job, my church, my city, and my school. How horrible it would have been for me to sit here and say that I wouldn’t miss it! If anything, this tells you that wherever I am, I plan to plug in and ask God to use me fully.” Please do the same.
- Don’t miss the people. These words are challenging to me since I am a task-oriented person. My office mates will tell you that I am good at pulling off events and setting up systems. But I know, if I’m not careful, I can miss the people part of an event or system. So, let me encourage you to be careful. You’re surrounded by amazing people here on the NOBTS campus. They’re in the offices, bookstores, and coffee shop. They sit beside you in class and also stand in front of you in those same classes. Their personalities may be different from yours but they’re still valuable and important to know. Glean from their wisdom and experiences. Gleaning doesn’t mean taking it all in. As my son once said, “Chew the meat and spit out the fat.” Every person has something to offer. Find it.
- Go ahead and smile. I know. Your mind is on a million different things but, gee golly, when you pass someone on the sidewalk, go ahead and smile. Sure, it may not be your primary personality trait to be outgoing and perky. But smile anyway. I’d rather NOBTS be known as the quirky seminary full of smiling Christians than a bunch of other taglines we can think of ourselves.
- Find someone you can be real with. Transparency and honesty have been big buzz-words on campus this semester. No one denies that it’s hard to spill your guts to someone when that spilling might cost you your job, your ministry, and maybe even your family. But, perhaps, if we could allow ourselves to get into ‘real’ relationships along the way, then we might avoid a “Deepwater Horizon”-sized oil spill. However, if you find yourself between a rock and a hard place already, please, please, please phone a friend. In other words, grab a human being and offer to buy him/her a cup of coffee/tea/cola for a few minutes of time. Don’t assume this human being has all the answers but, chances are, he or she will know who to point you to.
You will continue to see us around campus for another month or so. Allen (the original Dr. Jackson) will be leading Youth Ministry Institute during the first January workshop slot. If you’re youth-ministry-minded, you should figure out how to be a part of this! It’s full of good information and quality networking opportunities. Then, after a little vacay to get our minds and bodies refueled, we’ll pack up the house and head east.
If you have a chance, please drop by the Dean of Students office on Tuesday, December 15 between 11am and 1pm for a hug and light refreshments. We’ll be having an informal come-and-go celebration. But just remember, I’m not good at goodbyes.