The Art of Leaving

Is there such an art?

I sure didn’t grow up knowing about it.  We just left!

By the time I was 40, I had moved 27 times, often from one continent to another.  It was simple.  We set the date.  Packed the old place.  Got in the car and drove away, knowing we would never see most of those people again.


Just go.

The past paled in contrast with the sparkles of the future.

While I am still a future-focused person, I have come to the point of believing that the past, if handled rightly, can contribute to the future so it needs to factor into the transition.

It is a theory anyway.

And, since we are moving from Anaheim, California to Spartanburg, South Carolina in September, I have the opportunity to test the theory.

Except . . . since I have never done this before, how do I do it?

Well, for starters, I am going to make a list of people and places that were significant during my 44 years here.  I wonder what will happen if I engage with either the memory or the reality of those people (a lot of them are already reading the archives ahead of me) and revisit the land.

No clue if that is the best way, but it is a place to start for an amateur.

Another possibility is that some of you who are wise in the ways of leaving could write some comments and coach me on how you do it, to see if there are transferable concepts for our journey.

Stand by for some of our classic SLG failing forward.

Copyright December 2017 by Arthur Burk






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23 Responses to The Art of Leaving

  1. Amy Hansen says:

    One word that comes to mind is “gratitude”. A soaring celebratory gratitude has been an overriding theme through many of my transitions and farewells.

  2. Lana Rempel says:

    Firstly, I do feel a little sad that you’ll be leaving the West Coast. Good people leaving an area changes that area. Holding down the wild west coast is no small task. You will be greatly missed. Most importantly, how will you deal with the snow?! (haha! just kidding!)

    As far as The Art of Leaving goes, I can relate as we grew up quite similarly. I read a book by David Pollock and Ruth Van Reken on TCKs called “Third Culture Kids: Growing up Among Worlds”, that changed the way I leave a place. They encourage people to build a R.A.F.T. This stands for Reconciliation, Affirmation, Farewell, and Think destination. This helps with both leaving as well as entering a new place to be done well. You probably already do these sort of things, but could be something to ponder on anyway.

    Blessings on your move and your Art of Leaving.

  3. elainequick says:

    A few things that came up for our family as we transitioned from homes, countries etc was giving people enough time to say their good-byes in their own way; revisiting special places/people and spending moments of “sit still and be”; verbalizing the best moments out loud, to someone else; taking pictures worth keeping. All the best as you transition.

  4. Dayle says:

    We are still learning about leaving well. When we left New Zealand for Australia many years ago, I went with my children to all the places that had been significant to me, from all the homes we had lived in, to all the places that had special meaning for me. In each one, I either embraced the pain, laid it down and let it go, or celebrated what that house or place had meant to me, telling my children the story and laughing over some of the memories, then laid it all down. After we moved I felt no homesickness or need to look back for I had closure and could fully embrace the journey ahead in a new place. When the time came to leave the first Church community we had been involved in the Lord laid on my heart, Matt 10 vs 12-13. So I reminded the Lord of all the ways the community had been a blessing to me and asked the Lord what blessing could I leave so that it remained. And I followed this practice ever since. But perhaps the standout one was when we left Melbourne for Sydney, and it meant leaving behind the community that we had been a part of for 20 years. I reminded the Lord of all the myriad ways this community had been a blessing to us, and asked the Lord what peace/blessing could I leave behind so that it remained, thinking it would be a monetary amount or other like gift, but the Lord said, whatever you ask for this community I will do on your behalf. It was like being given an open chequebook. I prayed as big a prayer as I could in that moment – so that the blessing that remained was as big as it could be.
    Since I have learnt about land from you, when we left our place in Melbourne, I blessed the land and the house with every blessing I could think of so that the new owners would walk in and benefit from everything that had been laid there for them.

  5. Narola Grady says:

    I have moved several times too. Something I did when Mother sold the family home: I prayer walked through every part of the house/garage/yard, and spoke about the things I learned, the blessings I received. Next I asked forgiveness and cleansing of the land for sinful acts that came to mind. Then I spoke specific blessings over each portion for those who would buy the property. My personal joy & grief had a legitimate avenue for expression. I left with peace and closure in my heart at the end of this exercise.

  6. Nancy Bentz says:

    My husband and I joined in the New Year’s Eve live stream. Thank you, Arthur. We send blessing as you and your team of families prepare for the ‘big move’ to South Carolina! I will share this link as a small offering for what you might take away of thoughts contained within in response to this Art of Leaving post: Godspeed on your way to rest on every side.

  7. Louise says:

    When I left somewhere I found it helpful to give a gift to those people who I were close to as a kind of “thank you” to them for being in my life. I would also visit the “land” places and ponder there of the experiences and, as someone said above get the “feeling” from the Holy Spirit if I would back there again or not.

    I would also spend the whole week working on the gifts and having conversations and reflecting with the people that I got to know if I was able to. (In the working world this is not always possible). I try and actually meet myself in that place and if the people are not responsive or busy or themselves already left, I review them in my mind.

    It’s been challenging sometimes as I don’t like changing environments that much so when leaving a city that was “home” for even a short time, I always take time to review, reflect and even have the conversations of the leaving if at all possible.
    I connect with the buildings and nature around me so when I leave I need to also “speak” to them and acknowledge the part that they played while I was there because that part of nature is unique to that part of the world, and it’s only there.

    So I like to breathe that air in again and bless and clear the air (repent and forgive) where needed to Father and acknowledge the change that is happening. I have always found leaving places, friendships and things quite a challenge.

    Any things not “made right” before leaving feel the leaving as almost “unfinished” to me so I start to leave at least two weeks before in my heart and begin with the gifts and visiting the spots from that time until the last day. Some places you need to “leave” by going to those favorite places more than once before the actual leaving day. Well for me it’s like that anyway!

  8. Dale says:

    Orange County is a highly transient society. People normally move after two or three years. The land itself will provide closure for you and to all those you contacted. That is a gift that can be intentionally acknowledged, treasured, and taken with you.

  9. Claire B says:

    I think it’s neat that you have all this time, 8 months!!, to say goodbye and enjoy the closure. Once a big decision like that has been made, I’m usually chomping at the bit for the change, but kudos to you for taking your time. Maybe you could designate a special theme to celebrate each month as you say goodbye and reflect. Eight themes of 30 days a piece….

    Blessings in this new area of saying goodbye!! I’m excited to see what you discover!!

  10. December Long says:

    Be well and truly blessed in your transition, Arthur. You carry all that Papa conveyed to you in living in California and all other previous places you’ve ever resided. Your presence will be much missed in California, but, will always be treasured and present in The Kingdom. Many wonderful trails await in South Carolina! California shines a warm and thankful farewell abundant with the best wishes for the fullness of God’s heart to you and SLG.

  11. Elizabeth Wiebe says:

    I believe it is helpful to go around your house, your neighborhood, every place and thing you frequent and are leaving behind, and actually say Good-bye. Good-bye Office. Good-bye Garage. Good-bye cupboards. Good-bye Church pew, etc.
    Having said Good-bye it seems less painful to leave, even if there is excitement about going. Something heals. Blessings and Abundance to you and yours Arthur, in 20118.

  12. Janis Leal says:

    “Leaving” involves so much, and most of the time it seems people attach “leaving” to geography, to physicality and point-to-point designated locations. But to me it involves more the internal experience than external tangibles, although the external tangibles can be a huge part. “Closure” can be powerful, most often must be intentional, is often attached to the physical environment, and is often necessary before “opening” the new.

    I consider when Jesus left the earth in His human form, when He with apparent highly focused intentionality spent time with His core group, washing feet, giving words of direction and promise, blessing and leaving reverberating words like, “Peace I leave with you.” He also spoke to Jerusalem with deep emotion, seemingly as much for His own soul’s sake as much as for the city. And although He “lives to make intercession for us” always before the Father, He yet prayed for His own to the Father in the physicality of place and time before His transition. I look at His transition and see deliberate things.

    To me, going back to revisit a place, whether to work through emotions, or to ponder, to bless, to leave peace, or whatever, helps to leave behind what needs to be left behind, and at the same time receive what needs to be received that may not have yet. In the process, the Lord will usually reveal what should be left and what is here for us NOW that can be received.

    And “going back” might involve not only revisiting places but people, as directed by the Lord, for either reconciliation, blessing and thanks, or simply because the Lord may want to reframe or correct a misperception that will help us propel forward, make us see what we didn’t see before that’s necessary for where we “go” next.

    It’s an interesting dance, when led by the Lord, and so beneficial when letting ourselves be led by our spirit and the Spirit. I think sometimes people can err on either one side or the other – either putting more into the process than is necessary by trying too hard and overdoing it, or being too slack in the process by simply “moving on” without taking the time and intentionality to both “leave” and “receive” properly, thus missing out on great treasure and possible equipping.

    For example, once when I took even just a little bit of time and effort to “go back” to a place, by the Spirit, I received a bit of healing as well as a tangible token as a gift from Father which became a symbol of deeply powerful things for the future. It’s my opinion that the Lord will lead us to just the places and/or the people during our physical transitions, and any other type, not by our trying too hard, but simply being available to “go back” before “going forward.”

    May your spirit be blessed in the newness of this flavor of wisdom, deeply knowing beyond mental knowledge where to go and not go, who to see and not see, what to do and not do, in the simple peace and elegance of Jesus’ own process of transition that He left for you. May you, according to the Lord’s perfect will and way in the transition, properly leave behind what is needed, and also fully receive what is needed, finding both His special gifts of love to you as well as His equipment and preparation

    • SLG says:

      I like this phrase: ““Closure” can be powerful, most often must be intentional. . .”

      • Janis Leal says:

        … and often involves grieving, and can be greatly enhanced by symbolic acts. California has been a big piece of you for so long. Wow.

        May you glean in your remaining time there ALL He has for you in the process, and every transaction in the receiving-giving and leaving-going reveal the precision and beauty of the Lord’s creative and powerful hand.

        • Daphne says:

          I loved the way you phrased this subject Janis. I would love to add one experience I had leaving a property we lived on for 15 years. We spent a lot of time taking care of the land and left it in much better shape and more beautiful than when we arrived. One day I sensed that the land was crying over our leaving, afraid that it would be neglected and unloved again. I spoke to the land blessing it to trust that God would be there, that He had been there first; asking the land to release us as well. The property had been on the market for over a year and sold a few weeks later to a man who loved the property and he has done a lot to make it even better and more beautiful. Arthur; I think that it is going to be a beautiful journey for youtransitioning from the west to the east.

  13. Peter says:

    I have had a leaving in the past that God showed up in an unexpected way. Friends and acquaintances (all church family) did not agree that it was right for us to be moving on and we expected that our departure would essentially be unannounced and in the dead of night so as to minimize awkwardness. The surprise was in God orchestrating a behind-the-scenes turnaround such that our departure was celebrated as good and right and we were blessed instead of cursed.

    No idea if there’s anything to be gleaned from that but I thought I’d share…

    Looking forward to having you in our general vicinity!

  14. Peter Stevens says:

    Arthur, Like you future trumps the past, but as I think about it part of me never leaves, and I have kept in touch with the important people in my life, even calling them after 15 or 20 years of neither communicating, I guess something called me to do that. Like my school friend Andy who was serving in the Falkland Islands, and I tracked him down, that was 20 years, the communications Tower said something like, Oh he’s right here, we only see him once a day. It was then years till we met face to face, by then his eldest daughter had stayed with us, looked just like him, weird as she was older than when I last saw him at school!!!
    I say relax, let the Lord bring to you what works for you, good thing he never moves on.

  15. Margaret Lehman says:

    Arthur, you are wise to be intentional about the process. I think there is a sense in which leaving is a little like death in that it involves separation, so some grieving is normal. It does have the benefit of pulling our eternal perspective into better focus as we anticipate the day when we don’t have to say goodbye anymore. And since relationships do last forever, whether it’s here or eternity that you meet again, yes, taking the initiative to revisit those people and places is a good move. Those visits will make the mental snapshots you’ll come back to later, so you’ll be glad to have a scrapbook full of hugs, gratitude, forgiveness, and connection instead of loose ends. Even the less comfortable re-visits will likely be with a more mature perspective than how things would have been left otherwise. That’s a gift also to the people and land you’ll leave. In some ways it’s harder for those who stay. You are anticipating a new adventure on the other end of your transition, while they are only seeing the hole that will be left. May you go out with joy and be led forth with peace and hear the trees clapping as you go.

  16. Jenifer Jackson says:

    In my experience when you leave a place either the door closes completely & you have a sense of never returning or the door seems to remain ajar in case you return to visit.

    It’s important to take only essentials with you as it’s a new thing that is starting. Travel light!
    Hold previous things / people lightly too – they have been precious during that time however we cannot keep them – just as we cannot keep / hold onto what is also ahead of us!

  17. Cynthia says:

    We also moved a LOT as I was growing up. I remember some cases where those short-term friends would write me a letter at my next place of residence (showing my age here, only snail mail available!), but mostly they would not, so most relationships sagged into the void as we relocated.

    Now, it seems much easier to stay connected via all the media, wherever it’s helpful.

    And I LOVE your idea of savoring your time, people, land there (44 years, wow!) and revisiting them before you leave. I would think that this would be a great gauge for seeing your own strengths now that years have passed. Everything will seem very different after all these decades, and that gives you another place to savor and rejoice.

  18. Judy says:

    You enter a new place with what you take with you. Leave behind unkind words, thoughts or deeds (either by you or about you). Take with you precious memories of the good people, places and events…especially remembrances of how the King has worked in your life as well as those around you! Blessings as you enter your new place!

  19. Jenni G says:

    I think there is a blessing that comes with mourning. Even though I am a forward-facing person and by no means a home-body, I think I have taken more of a spiritual heritage with me when I moved, if I took time to mourn the people I was leaving, the kingdom work left undone or that I could no longer be a part of, the special nature of that place that I would not experience elsewhere.

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