My father once said wistfully, “I wonder when was the last time I put you on my shoulders?” He paused for a minute, and then continued slowly as his thoughts went back in time. “There must have been a last time . . . But when? I suppose I pulled you off my shoulders like I’d done so many times before, set you down and thought nothing of it—not realising I’d never have my little boy riding on my shoulders . . . ever again.”
You’ve proven that our community is confident enough to speak openly about complex issues, intelligent enough not to be swept along even with the most persuasive of pieces and gracious enough to love even those with whom we disagree.
Sometimes change happens so gradually we don’t notice it until it has long passed. Other times it happens so dramatically it’s impossible to miss. The change that is about to happen in my life falls squarely into the latter category.
This is my last Adventist Record editorial. Ever. I know it as I write it. So does all my team. And so, now, do you.
When we arrived back in Australia it never occurred to me that I’d work for the South Pacific Division (SPD), let alone edit the Record. I was planning to accept a position with Amnesty International when Neale Schofield, the CEO of Adventist Media (AM) at the time, invited me to come and work with him. Both Leisa and I were impressed that I should accept the invitation. But nothing at all turned out like we expected.
I was only at AM a handful of months when, after a couple of other people turned it down, I was asked to be SPD Communication director. A few months later, Pastor Pablo Lillo, then Record editor, followed his call to return to church pastoring—very much missed by everyone, but most of all me. As we searched for a new editor, I pitched in as a stopgap. We offered the job to a capable candidate. He turned it down. We struggled on. And then one day Barry Oliver, the SPD president at the time, told me he’d found a new Record editor, and I was it.
Editing Record was never my ambition. Just as well. As even the most Machiavellian of schemers couldn’t devise a path to the position that circuitous and improbable!
As unexpected as it was, more surprising has been the overwhelming kindness and support I’ve received during these years. You’ve proven that our community is confident enough to speak openly about complex issues, intelligent enough not to be swept along even with the most persuasive of pieces and gracious enough to love even those with whom we disagree. Which, often enough over the past five years, has been me!
These years have been terrific. I’ve worked with an outstanding team who have only gotten better every year. I owe a debt to Barry Oliver and Neale Schofield for trusting me with such an important portfolio, and to Glenn Townend (SPD president) and Kalvin Dever (Adventist Media CEO) for supporting me in the role.
And there has also been a very deeply personal benefit. Children of missionaries get a wonderful gift. But we give up something profound: a sense of place, belonging and family. These past five years have given that back to me. I’ve met my nan’s family in West Australia and visited the Barossa where, among the vineyards, my great-great-grandfather first heard the Advent message. I’ve sat at the back of the small Avondale funeral chapel as my Uncle George’s friends recounted their early flying adventures and I’ve lived in the same city as my mother for the first time since I was 15 years old. All of that, and so much more.
But I have an American law degree that has been gathering dust and a web of complex contacts in DC that are getting cold. And I need time to write the books that are bouncing around in the back of my mind. Plus we have a secret dream we’re hoping will become a reality. On multiple levels, now is the time to return to Washington.
Last week my youngest child asked to be lifted onto my shoulders. I hesitated. She’s almost 10 years old now; tall and strong. I hadn’t put her on my shoulders in months. Then I thought back to my dad and smiled. I sat down and she climbed on. We paraded around the centre of Mona Vale as she whooped and made peace signs; my back aching, my heart singing. And then I put her down. I’m quite sure. For the very last time.
James Standish will be on the frontlines of law, faith and tempestuous US politics. To receive his candid and insightful updates from Washington, send an email to: <email@example.com> or friend him on Facebook.