We have three weeks left until the moving van pulls up and all our earthly possessions are loaded up and hauled out to Dayton, OH. Lately, I’ve been going over all the ways to finish well and say goodbye. Spend time with friends, check—two of my closest friends and I enjoyed a crazy fun weekend and at the end, said goodbye. Finish up the Bible Study, check—next week we celebrate our final Bible study (and choose favorite recipe to make as our final meal together). Our house has sold, check— and now I am somewhat glumly imagining a new family moving into my house. Last hair appointment, check—and don’t think it was with no emotion that last week I said goodbye to my favorite stylist! Given this emotional trend, I might end up weeping as I push my cart through the food aisles of my local grocery store! “Dear, sweet Giant food store, I will never again see your happy bakery section or witness your employees deftly slicing deli meat!”
Well, let’s all hope that it doesn’t come to that : )
I also turned in my badge and pager at the hospital where I worked. I’ll miss that place. Later that same week I finished my last two counseling sessions at church. Then I carried out a few final books from the office that I used, relinquished my office key and that was that.
As I was doing this mental inventory of things I will miss, I was surprised to find how much I miss my work as counselor and acute care therapist. I loved those jobs and I feel like a big part of me is missing now that they are gone (7 years!).
My new life doesn’t have those things and facing that life is a scary prospect. God may provide equally rewarding and enjoyable work opportunities in the future, but with the military lifestyle being as transient as it is I don’t want to create unrealistic expectations. I may not be able to recreate the stable situation that I had here.
I get that change is ok. Really, I do. I get that this is God’s story and that he has the bigger picture. His omniscience. His sovereignty. Yes and yes (and amen!). But it still feels like following God’s path for Paul means veering wildly off the path that I was heading down. I put in the time and effort to get training for these jobs. Has it all been wasted? And what about the goals that I set for myself, do they have any significance at all?
It just doesn’t seem fair!
And there it is. That’s what I want God to know through humble prayer (or maybe yelling or whining or complaining, whatever get’s the point across most effectively!). “It’s just not fair,”—the champion cry of toddlers and young children everywhere (at least, I hear it a lot in my house!), the phrase they say loudly, defiantly, and with many tears and much wailing,— yep, that’s exactly what I’d like God to know. But we adults are more subtle than all that. We just think it.
When it comes right down to it, the reason I dislike God’s plan is because it leaves me just a tad bit scared. The annoyance and irritation I may display is just a sheet I’m throwing over the dirty laundry (doesn’t everyone just throw sheet over the pile of clothes in the laundry room when their realtor calls to ask for a last minute house showing??) of fear and anxiety. Fear has begun to convince me that there is danger ahead and that my God is not up to the challenge of bringing good from this new venture (at least not as good as he did this the previous 7 years). So maybe I just need to trust God more and not be afraid. But that’s not quite it either. Somehow stability and fear are connected in a third issue.
I am afraid of what my identity will be in this chapter of my family’s adventure. Who will I be without my work and without my ministries and outreaches? They have evaporated from right in front of me and my emotional world is beginning to wobble. I am left with less on which to build my emotional security.
Maybe for you, this seems like stream of conscious writing and makes no sense. But look at your life, look at the things that you think, “I’m good at that! I know what I’m doing!” and imagine God says, “Great! Now, stop doing that. In fact, replace that thing with this other thing that you aren’t very comfortable with and don’t understand very well.” That’s where I am right now.
After the move, I will have stopped being acute care speech therapist and church counselor and will become stay at home wife and mom with three kids, homeschooling them part time (for two days a week they will be at a hybrid school) and “holding down the fort” while Paul gets his bearings as an active duty chaplain. But I’ve never just been a wife and homeschooling mother. Whenever I felt like I was struggling with those particular roles, I could always think, “at least I’m a good therapist.” So, not having that fall-back is new territory for me. What if I do it all wrong? What if I’m a really good speech therapist but a terrible homeschool mom? Maybe my identity will become, “well-meaning mom, but she should have stuck with her day job.” Sigh.
So how to untangle all of this stability, fear and identity issues? Here goes. God has set this path in front of me and promised his presence beside me (even to the end of the age—Matt 28:20; Heb 13:5). This move is a chance to remember that my identity shouldn’t rest on those things that I consider myself “good” at (even though I feel like that would be awesome!). Instead, I will remember that my identity is rooted in my relationship with God. In Proverbs 16:9 he says, “the heart of a man plans his ways, but the Lord establishes his path.” Solomon doesn’t say we shouldn’t plan, but in the end, I have to cede any plans of mine to God. If those plans were the place I took my emotional stability, then perhaps it is time to review my strategy. It’s not my plans that make for stability which gives me identity; it’s identity gives me stability which pushes me to plan. Identity and stability need to be rooted and grounded in the truth that God is my father, I am his child. Whew. That was a long post to get to that!
In truth, my work has already been planned (Eph 2:10), my identity is already established (Titus 3:4-7) and my path is already set (Ps 37:23). Any fear, anxiety, irritation or annoyance that I feel should simply remind me that I shouldn’t be searching for the perfect job (ministry, opportunities etc), I should be diligently searching out my perfect God. And thankfully, he is never further away than a repentant prayer and sincere request for help.
He will tell me who to be while living in Ohio, and in every other place we live after that.
As I’ve struggled with this issue, a song and a blog post have both been very helpful to me. The post is by Wendy Alsup and is entitled “On Quitting my Job.” When reading it I’m like, “YES! That is me!” Her final point is found in this quote.
As I resign at the community college, I’m letting go of that last little tie I had to a time in life when I excelled (or at least when I FELT like I excelled). And I’m going to firmly live in the middle of a place where I don’t excel. The good thing is that it pushes me out of my comfort zone and reminds me of the basic truths to which I must cling at every stage of life—those big, robust truths encapsulated in that little word GOSPEL.
Very encouraging. Also, the song that I’ve loved during the past few month is Keith and Kristen Getty’s “My Worth is Not in What I Own.”