They tell you not to leave a job, let alone a job at a parish, after just one year. They say that it looks bad on résumés and gives the impression that you’re flighty, flippant and not going to stick it out for the long haul. It disrupts parish lives and breaks those relationships with families and teens you spent precious time building.
And yet I find myself, just over the one-year mark at my first job, leaving. Doing the whole uprooting-my-entire-life-and-everything-I’ve-become-accustomed-to thing that I did just last year – again. Packing up all of the things I own and preparing to lug it 1,200 miles away to a new town, where I’ll have to use Google Maps to get everywhere. All over again. Another mighty transition, reverberating through every big and small detail of my life.
There is so much discomfort that’s come with this – the discomfort of having hard conversations, the discomfort of guilt over how this decision will impact others, the discomfort of this not being what you’re “supposed to do,” the discomfort of receiving others’ reactions, the discomfort of others wanting to celebrate you and commemorate your going, the discomfort of not being “settled” anymore, the discomfort of ambiguity between one thing ending and a new thing beginning… And yet I find the Lord speaking into this discomfort and asking me to sit in it, to dwell in it – to lean into the discomfort. And in this space, to remember again that the only real comfort comes in knowing the Good Shepherd and trusting that He’ll lead me. This is the goal, but I don’t know that I’ve gotten to that place. I’m trying; I’m sitting and dwelling and leaning and hoping for growth.
I’ve been thinking lately about the Israelites response to discomfort. They were trapped under the oppressive bond of slavery, the cruelty of the Egyptians, terrible working conditions, reduced personhood, religious oppression – they were a people crying out to be saved! So God does the thing where He works miracles and performs wonders and frees them from all of this, promising them a land totally their own, flowing with milk and honey – a totally new life. Flip forward to the desert: they’ve left the tyranny of Egypt behind and are making their way towards their destiny and they are tired. They are uncomfortable. They are wandering through the wilderness and can’t fathom when they will at last be in their promised land. Out of this discomfort comes their response: “Why can’t we just go back to Egypt to die there? At least there we didn’t have to deal with the discomfort of this transition and this restless wandering! We had food! We had a place to stay that was our own! Why would God lead us out of Egypt only to be miserable? I wish we had not left.” Basically, they’re saying they would rather suffer and die in Egypt than wander in the desert towards something better. I read this, and it blows my mind! They want to go back to Egypt?? To slavery???? To being persecuted and looked on as less than human???? It’s unfathomable to me that they could be in a place of such hopelessness that they long to go back and die in slavery rather than trust in the Father’s promise of an abundant life.
I don’t know what it was like to leave Egypt and wander in the desert. But I do know what it feels like to be uncomfortable. And what is my response? It seems like it would be wise to avoid the grumbling, wishing-to-go-back-to-how-it-was response, because I sure don’t want to wander for 40 years, but I think it should be more than that. Because I think that there’s a lot the Lord wants to teach us, wants to teach me, and probably wanted to teach the Israelites, during times of discomfort. Instead of looking back and longing for previous comfort, or totally focusing on and over-exalting the new comfort I hope is coming, how do I be in the here and now and receive what You have for me right in the midst of the transition itself? God of my future, God of my past, bring me into the present moment with You – for You know what You are about.