Remix to Transition

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.

 

 

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“God doesn’t want you to be lonely”

We had our annual retreat for the Core Team two weekends ago, and the turnout ended up being pretty low. I had spent so much time crafting a theme and talks – only to have the smallest percentage of our group able to attend. The retreat felt more like a really extended small group session, and my work on it felt unnecessary.

Luckily, though, I had previously met and somewhat knew each person that attended, so there was at least some comfort in that familiarity. On our second day, we had another woman join the group that I didn’t know at all. When we broke into pairs to pray over one another, I naturally got paired with her. There was that all-too-typical experience of being so willing to minister to others but being uncomfortable being ministered to yourself. As she asked me what I wanted prayers for, I inwardly cringed at the necessary vulnerability and authenticity of the moment. But I told her how, being so new here and unfamiliar and alone – I had been feeling really lonely. As we prayed, she spoke words of comfort over me. And she helped me lift my heavy heart to the Father with this simple, profound phrase: “God doesn’t want you to be lonely.”

Truly, up until that moment, this hadn’t occurred to me. That God didn’t desire my loneliness and suffering. That He actually would have something better and more beautiful in mind, if the world were perfect and the Fall hadn’t happened. And that He only allows these things in our lives because they can be used to refine and purify us by our suffering through them. I had forgotten how He is able to make good come from even the worst, darkest places and points of our lives. (Not that this is, by any means, a time of intense suffering. Just a hard transition.)

How do I forget so easily what it is that God desires for me…what it is that He made me for? Abundant life. Fullness of joy. Of course He doesn’t want me to be lonely – or angry or despairing or greedy or lazy. He doesn’t want me to feast upon things that fail to satisfy. All He wants for me is Himself. And He wants all of me for Himself. The paradoxical love of the Father is how He gives and loves without condition or expectation but desires us in completeness and totality. His love is all-consuming but never forceful. And with the utmost gentleness, He never tires of reminding me of what I should already know – that He desires my good.

On Sharing Words and Creating Things

I spent a few hours customizing the theme of this site and working my way through all the different options. Curated to be exactly to my liking, I set about writing the Week One post, already half-composed in my head.

I posted it.

Then, I read a post of a friend – where he made the declaration along the lines of “it’s okay if you don’t care about what I have to say – I’m just writing this because I like to write and want to express myself creatively for the sole benefit of doing it…because I enjoy it.” I read that, and I thought about my own post. I thought about how I tried for poetic sentence structure and dramatic phrasing. How I prided myself on my blog post-prowess. I hadn’t shared it with others, after all, but when I read it again…I wondered if I hadn’t, subconsciously, written it with the opinion of others in mind.

We live in a veritable vortex of word-sharing. Ideas and communication circulate faster and wider than ever before. Traditional printed media – such as physical books and newspapers – seem to have fallen out of circuit somewhat, but there has been an surge in the number of articles and blog posts I see shared on social network platforms each day. Whether they are another’s words or our own – we have become very accustomed to posting and proclaiming words on public platforms. (omg the alliteration YAAAAS)

The rise in the number of personal blogs over the past few years has been astounding. I’m not sure what the statistics are, but scrolling my own Facebook feed, it seems there is new a post about someone’s new blog or someone’s guest post each day. I don’t mean to sound as though I’m condemning this. I think it is phenomenal that we live in a world and time where the outlets for developing, crafting and sharing our own thoughts is virtually innumerable. I also think that this has, in some way, added to the culture of comparison that has infected most forms of social media. I see someone’s blog. I read their post. I look at the design of the site. I think, “Wow, this is so good. This person put so much effort into this. Look at how polished it seems. How natural their writing is. How effortless and hilarious their funny anecdotes are. I could never do that.

Now, maybe it’s just me – but I’d wager that there are others who have looked at the creativity, the skills or the talents of another person and turned it into a negative statement, a limitation, on themselves. I’ve tried to not give into this, to not place myself out of reach from something just because someone else can do it too. Have I wanted to have my own blog before? Yes. Have I ignored that desire because I didn’t want to be “just another person with a blog”? Absolutely. I started this blog because I enjoy writing, and it took only one post for me to already question my motives. To wonder if my words were genuine or just well-arranged. Far too often we are held back by the fear of what other people will think or the fear that what we create will be meaningless or the fear that what we do won’t be authentic (or won’t appear authentic to others)…but to borrow a phrase from a book I read in one of my classes, “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?”

Whether it’s blogging or watercolor or pottery or calligraphy – if it interests you, do it. If it stirs the natural desire within you to create – try it. It’s not that the world doesn’t need “another” person doing that very thing. What we don’t need are people living in the shadows of “someone-else-does-it-better,” too timid to emerge from that darkness into a world hungry for more. Create, seek, try — and share it. And if you see someone else trying out something they’re interested it (and maybe even super good at), do yourself and them a favor – don’t compare. Don’t take what they’ve done and use it for the ulterior purpose (and not a positive one) of making yourself feel lesser. There should be less of “I never have, but have always wanted to…” and more of “I tried it and you know what? It wasn’t too bad.”

Not to copy Nike (or to endorse a YOLO lifestyle), but this is one area of life where I’d say “Just do it.”

Week One

My first week on the job.

Hoping my shoes don’t squeak, wondering if I’m over-dressed, worrying that I’m under-dressed…incipio – I begin. Everyone is incredibly kind, so wonderfully welcoming. Some are even saying, “Thank you; thank you for coming, for being here,” as if I wasn’t the one desperate for this job. I haven’t done anything of merit or worth, but they’re already grateful that I’m here. Thankful for my presence.

With the construction going on and the mission trips approaching, this week gives me no sort of expectation or feel for what day-to-day life and work will be like here. Everything is unstable, nothing “typical”. Even so, it feels nice to be of some use, immersed in the immediate needs at hand. I am beginning to develop the sense of being a part of a living, breathing machine, a human community.

The item most worthy of note for the week is when I watched the fracturing of a heart. Of it being consumed by grief and swallowed by unexplainable anguish. A coworker received a triple-wammy of devastating family news, and I happened to be present in the midst of this very personal pain. I was moved profoundly for this person I had barely come to know yet, and felt as though I was not worthy of having an insight into the sacredness of their heartbreak. As I sat in on my first-ever staff meeting and members shared personal and community news about deaths and illnesses, I was struck again by the weight of mortality. The reality of our death. The immensity of grief.

This week I am humbled by the gift. To be alive, to be present…to be here.