Sidelines Stories: The Slow Road
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Greetings from the sidelines! I’ve been exploring how God loves us and gives purpose to seasons when we feel left behind, lost, insignificant, inferior, or in the shadows of someone else’s spotlight (more details here). While most of my research has been on folks in the Bible, I’m also listening and learning from experiences of people today. My dear friend, Lindsay O’Connor, has graciously shared with us. I’ll let her introduce her story:
I was an elementary teacher for five years and then left to be a stay-at-home mom. I’ve known for a while that I don’t want to go back to teaching in the classroom. Along with that, after a spiritual experience in 2017, I began to sense a call to… something. I’ve spent the past 5 years wrestling with a big faith shift, new self-awareness and internal healing, while trying to get experience that would help me narrow down what’s next. I’ve gained a lot of new insights during this time and am heading in an increasingly clear direction. However, I struggle with the sense that everyone else seems to be “ahead” of me as I make a career change and try to figure out where my “new self” fits in with what God is doing in the world.
I asked Lindsay more about her experience in 2017. She explained that God led her to attend a conference for speakers, teachers, and writers led by Beth Moore. While it was clear that He orchestrated the details that allowed her to attend, but she wasn’t quite sure she fit in. These things were areas of interest, but life had been full with weaning a one-year-old as well as coping with a difficult season of postpartum depression.
I was wrestling with anxiety and sensed God telling me, “Your peace will not be in knowing everything will be ok. It will be in knowing that I'm with you.” And then there was a sort of invitation to do… something?… with God. God reassured me that God would be with me in the midst of the hard times and said it was the beginning of a new thing.
She was soon introduced to the Enneagram and began to do some deep personal and spiritual work, and then writing about shame. She also learned about justice issues and suddenly she was exploring contemplative activism. While she is on a journey with God, she also feels a little bit behind other people. She says, “It’s frustrating to wrestle with excitement about having some direction and a purpose, while also feeling like it is taking a lot longer than I imagined.”
I related to this immensely. How often do we look to the people around us as a measurement of where we think our own lives should be? Our limited point of view can make it seem that we are being left behind as others succeed or fulfill a calling. But I wonder, could our perspective be creating an illusion that convinces us that we are standing still while really we are moving at our own pace?
Lindsay describes knowing and being in relationship with people who are doing things similar to what she wants to do. She appreciates learning and inspiration, but feels like everyone else has already achieved what is taking her years to accomplish. Her journey has included a brief time in seminary, as well as a new job and a spiritual direction cohort. Lindsay describes her journey as inefficient as she looks at credentials and tangible accomplishments of the people around her. When she does have a victory, such as a published article, she finds it easy to downplay the achievement. Her path includes time at home with her daughters and a career change, and it’s easy to feel like she’s lagging behind others who have been on a focused track since early adulthood.
But, she speaks some serious truth:
When in reality, I know all the stuff, the everyday life, is not separate from some abstract thing or calling. I have to remind myself of the ways I’m already doing what I feel called to do. I’m learning and growing and connecting with others on the journey.
I asked where God is in this story now.
I’ve felt an uncomfortable sense of restlessness but also, it’s the thing that keeps me awake and alert to God’s movement. I see God in the people I’m connecting with and especially through the sacred stories they share with me. When I really stop to notice, I find that God is there in the present moment, so I feel that God has been teaching me to notice and look around more. In doing that, I am learning to see God in everything, every person, and every moment. Sometimes I feel a sense of having stumbled onto “this is exactly what I was made for.” In other moments, God seems to turn my attention away from accomplishing and achieving and toward God’s presence. I have a long way to go, but I’m learning to be more present with myself, God, and others. I’m learning to surrender more and fix or control less.
I’m not going to tie this up with a neat and tidy bow; that would dishonor the sacred in-between time so many of us are experiencing. Many thanks to Lindsay for representing our seasons of insecurity and doubts, while we’re somehow still aware of God in our midst.
Dear friend, you’re invited to share your story- either with our community here or with someone in your day-to-day life. Your story is an encouragement.
Connect with Lindsay!
FB page: https://www.facebook.com/yindsal
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