When calling changes, the spirit disintegrates. It must. Without letting go of (what are now) the former parts, there would be no room for new growth. The disintegration cannot be rushed, nor can it be made tidy through preparation or pure intention.

Perhaps disintegration feels too dramatic of an image, but as one in the midst of the transition of calling, it feels accurate and real. After almost ten years working in youth ministry in my congregation, I am preparing to leave this role to move to Durham, North Carolina, for one year for my spouse’s orthopedic fellowship.

After much discernment leading up to this change, I had to admit to myself (and eventually the congregation) that my initial calling had changed. Returning to youth ministry after a year away was not in the cards. I will return to my congregation after the year away, but I will return in a new position. This assurance of my return may have softened the blow initially, but it does not stop the disintegration. It does not ease the fact that my participation in this form of ministry has to dissolve in order for someone new to step in.

We are our relationships, our routines, our ministry challenges, and our ministry joys. To serve in ministry is to give one’s very personhood to the community in love and sacrificial service.

Yes, boundaries are crucial. Holding some privacy and independence is important. Practice of these things helps the transition. But there are no practices that take away the pain of leaving a calling that has defined us. To leave initiates the deconstruction of identity. Relationships have to be resolved. Information and rituals have to be divested and passed on.

There are days that this disintegration feels like my arms are being cut off for I am losing the people I serve in ministry. It feels like my legs are being cut off as I am losing the places to which I traveled to serve in ministry.

Yet, I do not lose hope. A beating heart remains, one that refuses to stop its pulse. The heart holds the memories that will serve as witness to all these years. A racing mind remains that refuses to stop its imagination. The mind plays out all that God might create through disintegration.

God waits patiently with me while I suffer the disintegration. The wounds testify to the Love that knit us together in shared ministry. The pain is evidence that the divine has fused our lives together in a way that can never be separated for Love never perishes.

All that remains is enough material for our Creator, whose specialty is raising new life from old bones. I refuse to believe the voice of fear that names disintegration as hopeless. Though my calling changes, God’s calling remains the same.

I find myself in good company as a disciple whose ministry feels in ruins. Among this company, I know that Christ comes with words of peace and orders to dream a new dream. Thanks be to God for promises of wholeness that satisfy the beating hearts that remain.

Carol Harston is wrapping up her work as minister to youth at Highland Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky, to travel to Durham, North Carolina, for one year with her family. Carol will return to Highland in fall 2017 to serve as associate pastor of faith formation and congregational engagement.