It was a casual gathering, a group of women getting to know each other in some cases, and for those who were already acquainted, deepening friendship. We mingled in this cozy place full of comfy chairs and comfort foods–chocolate scattered around in pretty dishes, always within reach. People breezed in and out of conversation and the room buzzed with gracious words and good will.
I remember the exact moment I wanted to evaporate: when Lysa posed a seemingly innocent question to the friend on her right.
“What are you passionate about these days?”
I doubt anyone noticed the flush in my cheeks, or the panic in my eyes tethered to a heart galloping out of control. It was easy enough to slip out of the room without notice.
I feared that question would come ’round to me and I didn’t have an answer.
I had no answer.
I had no passion or excitement or whatever phrasing had been used in the original question and I felt like a loser. Pathetic. Aimless.
On the surface, you would have never guessed that about me. Most of the time I present a confident front, and I suppose there are parts of me that always are.
But the longer I live the more I’m convinced that people are rarely all of whatever they appear to be.
If we allow room for it, we can see people as complex creatures who are a lot of things at the same time. Happy and sad. Confident and insecure. Intelligent and ignorant. Faith-full and faithless. Conservative and liberal. It just depends on what particular thing you’re talking about.
Lysa’s question came toward the end of what would become a years-long season of personal difficulty.
My heart would be broken in a million little ways.
At times I was a blind man walking.
Sometimes I felt like a dead man walking.
And though sometimes I still feel a little of both, I’m on the other side, or at least I [think/hope/pray] I am.
* * *
My life and body are ministering change to me.
I’m incubating an empty nest twice over, and let me tell you: gestation is complicated. People find themselves in crisis at mid-life because not one thing happens, many things happen. Parents fall ill. Children make disappointing choices. Finances become stressors. Career stalls. You reach certain age milestones and it feels like the world is suddenly diminishing what you have to offer. Your body betrays you in surprising ways. Your body betrays you in expected ways. You discover menopause IS a thing you can’t ignore.
In her must-read book, Pursue the Intentional Life, my dear friend Jean Fleming suggests our declining physical condition is a ministry of Eternity in our bodies; a reminder we aren’t made for Forever on this earth. If you’re willing to absorb the profundity of that thought, you’ll find a new joy, I promise.
I’m charmed and bewildered more than ever by a gracious, patient God who hasn’t given up on me.
I’ve recently begun the Beth Moore study of James and this week we looked at a single verse, James 1:2. Many of you will find it familiar –
Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials…
One thing Beth said in her video strummed my heart all the way back to that living room where Lysa had posed her question: “You can live with pain much more than purposelessness.” (I think I scribbled accurately, but leave grace for a missed word or two.)
Oh, how this truth spoke directly to my mental, emotional and physical response to that simple question years ago. Part of the anguish of my 10 Year Wandering was due to purposelessness in the midst of challenging circumstance.
Hold onto that.
Beth’s last point of session three in her viewer guide was a sentence that near ’bout made me cry:
Anguish is meant to lead to a birth.
(supporting text is John 15:20-22).
Anguish is meant to lead to a birth…!
Hold onto that, too.
* * *
After our study Wednesday, my group from last year planned lunch together. We’re scattered among several new groups this year, and we were missing the glue we had found last year. We ended up at a little Mexican restaurant, which made me giggle when I asked Siri for “directions to Acapulco in Macon, Ga.” She didn’t see the humor.
As we were leaving, I noticed a sign I had missed on my way in–it had faced the opposite approach to the restaurant.
Yes, I’m on the other side of an almost 10 Year Wandering, and I’m excited.
I’m holding my breath because I almost – almost – can’t believe it’s true.
I can see clearly now the rain is gone….
His favor is for a lifetime;
Weeping may last for the night,
But a shout of joy comes in the morning. (Psalm 30:5b)
Mourning into dancing….
Anguish leading to birth…
Not one day of those years was one wasted. It took 3,650, give or take a few, to seal an impression on me. I hope they’re lessons I’ll never forget. They were bought with a price. They cost me something.
Seeing, understanding and believing the redemptive purpose of e.v.e.r.y.t.h.i.n.g. in life is my passion.
Soli Deo gloria.
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‘I’m charmed and bewildered by more than ever a gracious God who hadn’t given up on me.’ Yes! What a succinct definition of real grace at work and ever present in our lives. He doesn’t give up on us! And wilderness lessons, though hard learned, are often those that have brought the most profound growth in my life. As always, Robin, thank you for sharing your dear heart and sweet self.
“Wilderness Lessons” – I like that, Mollianne :).
Due to a domestic violence incident more than 11 years ago now I have felt purposeless. Left with disfiguring and debilitating injuries… 38 surgical procedures later with still more to come… I feel a bit lost and alone. I know God is there, but I find it hard to hope for anything but heaven. If it were not for my sons, I do not know what I would do. Now that they need me less and less… and my husband is unsaved… I wonder what I have to live for when there is so little I can do…
Prayers for healing! May God soften and change your husband’s heart to come to Him. May God bring you some friends to come along side you & comfort you!
Prayers for comfort & healing of your soul!
I am 10 minutes away from having my bible study friends over….and just read this…are you my twin? I have been feeling this way for a while….wow…what an awesome answer….what a ‘miraculous sign’!….thanks for sharing…purposeful, passionate…I cannot see all the reasons yet, but I KNOW…there is a reason..He holds and answers and the purpose and I TRUST HIM, JESUS.
WONDERFUl post, Robin. So, so true and so beautifully said. Thank you, friend. I’m glad you’re on the other side of that stretching time.
Redemptive purpose… I love this…and I so get this… and yes gestation does take time…and I feel the birth pains…and sometimes I feel like a volcano getting ready to abrupt … and sometimes I wonder if all that is burning in my heart will ever make it to the surface… but more than anything I know with more confidence than ever… He loves me…and He knows… and that is enough for me… (at least for today 😉 “I’m charmed and bewildered more than ever by a gracious, patient God who hasn’t given up on me.” me too… totally amazed by His grace!!!!
Thank you for sharing this. Pursue the Intentional Life was just what I needed last summer. It helped give me a gentle nudge into being able to grow more fruit and journey with a passionate, joyful countenance. It is a gift to be able to hear your story; you are a blessing to me.
This post hit me hard. I’m in a season of personal difficulty. My aging father moved into assisted living and had issues that landed him in hospital 2X. He can finally hear good with aid, walk with walker. In the midst of that I worked a job I hate & is super busy. Also hubby almost lost job. The company kept him, but put him in ER on a “Crappy” shift that neither of us likes.
“It feels like the world is suddenly diminishing what you have to offer. Your body betrays you in surprising ways. Your body betrays you in expected ways.”
Lately I’ve felt like I just want to escape to a desert or some quiet place with no phones, noise, or much, if any computer connection. I just want to get to where God is and breathe in the wonder that He created.