Is This All There Is?
This past year I’ve been praying for some new directions in my personal walk with the Lord. For months as I engaged my regular routines and requirements I felt a vague restlessness coupled with the disturbing question, “What if this is all there is to my life? Is it enough?” The answer to that question disturbed me even more than the question did. However, it did prompt me to reflect on where I am in a different way than usual.
When we moved to Budapest everything was new. Sure, I felt utterly stupid for the first six months we were here, but the utter foreignness created an environment for disturbing questions to be asked and explored. Looking around at needs, I tried to fit my “regular” ministry activities into place and discovered that quite a few of them didn’t fit. After several attempts to find my niche, I wondered, “What is my part in this whole thing? I don’t see where I fit.” Loudly and often I voiced this to my husband, David. Soon the statement became a question. Then the question turned into an intriguing thought. What if there is a whole other way of engaging life, God and ministry than I’ve known so far? My life is half over. Do I really want to spend the next half doing the same things I’ve always done simply because that’s what I know?
Reflecting further, I realized I’m bored with “my regular ministry activities.” Not all, just some. God responded by “narrowing my playing field,” removing many ministries and personal markers to help me engage a new way with Him. At first, I found myself reaching back for things I had let go of–simply because they were familiar and comforting. But God was gracious and didn’t allow much of the familiar. Soon I became more comfortable with the possibility that something new and fresh was being birthed in me. Confirmation came unexpectedly in the shape of a big, fat, blue line on a pregnancy test.
Shock, delight, confusion, and fear all converged in me. In seventeen years of marriage, I never achieved pregnancy without significant medical help. I’m almost 40 years old–why give a miracle child now? I’m supposed to be finding fresh directions with God, thinking new profound thoughts of Him, letting ministry evolve into something deeper and more life-giving. How does one accomplish any of this with a newborn in the house?
Oh, the arrogance of thinking I know. When I asked Him to open up new directions for me, I had no idea He would be so wonderfully radical or so kindly ruthless. Several weeks after discovering I was pregnant, sickness set in. Not just morning sickness, but twenty-four hour a day suffering of all kinds. Nausea, reflux, vertigo, internal bleeding, fatigue, and hunger became the classroom where God began changing more of the inner world of my heart.
If sickness has been the environment, monotony and confinement have been my teachers. I’m nine days away from having the baby and you know what I’m discovering? That ongoing sickness doesn’t just slow you down, it shows a whole different side of life. The monotony of life when you cancel almost everything on your calendar, ignore as many responsibilities as you can just to get from the current hour to the next wearies me. The tedium of it is stunning. At first, I wasted energy fighting it. Then one day it dawned on me that perhaps monotony was a door to the supernatural kingdom. Perhaps long-term quietness and stillness would enable me to see a whole other layer of life as it is lived in the kingdom of God. What if what looks like “nothing” to me is really “something” in the kingdom of God? Do I recognize “Kingdom-ness” when I encounter it? Do I recognize the work of God?
When suffering demands relief and none is available, do I recognize the kindness of God being poured on my life? When well-meaning folks offer suggestions which grate the intellect, do I understand that His compassion for each of us is thorough? When my body and mind break down and I cry because I don’t see any way to continue, do I sense His power working in ways I don’t see? These are the questions monotony raises which are slowly opening doors for me.
If monotony opens doors of thought, confinement purifies the will. Ongoing sickness requires focus. The discipline of mind required to abide dietary restrictions, put energy into the most strategic places, and engage life without self-pity is growing in me. I’m so used to moving fast, thinking on my feet, and flying by the seat of my pants that the unrelenting habits of a highly disciplined life boggle my mind. Sometimes I’ve thought if the sickness doesn’t kill me the lifestyle will. Yet, what a gift. Many times discipline is the only force enabling me to get out of bed and live when most of me wants to pull the covers up over my head and pretend morning didn’t arrive.
I’m learning how to live more simply. Things are not quite as organized, nor quite as presentable as they might otherwise be. I’m doing less and less of the things that aren’t important to me and more and more of the things I love.
Mostly, I’m learning, and I think, changing some.
Reflecting again on my life these days, an inner stillness has replaced vague restlessness and a sense of wonder has answered my question “Is this all there is?” The way ahead feels more alive with possibilities of all that can be–and something in me feels ready to wait, explore, and embrace the unveiling of all that is to come.