After I had hammered my heart into trite syllables on the page, I took a deep breath and clicked submit, hurling my great big, messy feelings across cyberspace to land safely in Liz’s inbox. The week before, I woke up to the news that three thousand miles away, a girl not much older than me had chosen to end her life after being diagnosed with a brain tumor. After reading about her trip to the Grand Canyon, I found myself asking my husband about his dreams. When you love someone, your dreams seem small in comparison to the overwhelming desire to see another person’s dreams become reality. You find yourself wishing you could stretch each second, because you realize that this life is but a vapor. And I was trying to write light all over the place, because yeah, this tunnel can seem twisted and dark.
“I don’t even know where to begin,” I told Liz. I feel as though I’ve just bought into the idea that once my life looked a certain way, I would feel fulfilled. I mean, I have a college degree, a handsome and endlessly patient husband, a sweet little house in a sleepy little town, and a job that everyone tells me is meaningful. Someone at church called me a hero last week, and when the lady at the doctor’s office asked about my occupation, she nodded solemnly at my response and quietly assured that it takes a special person. I guess you could say I have all my ducks in a row. From the outside, my life looks like one to admire and aspire to. But behind the scenes, I feel a bit like Rose must have felt as she was hanging off the back end of the Titanic. Just get me off this ride.
Oh, if I only had a dollar for every time someone has said “it takes a special person,” I would never have to work another day in my life. It seems like if anything is going to be meaningful, it will take a special person to make it so. I don’t tell the woman in the doctor’s office about the night I was out till two in the morning, returning a runaway teenage girl to her placement. I don’t tell her about the boy who stole my scissors from my desk and sneered at me. I don’t tell her that I’m there because my blood pressure and pulse are through the roof. I don’t tell her about the cost.
Nobility wasn’t holding my tongue. It was fear. Fear that comes up from behind to cop a feel, and then robs you of whatever innocence you have. Fear that leaves you used up, busted up, and torn down, like a looted building after a storm. Fear that whispers you’re not special, you’re nothing. Who will want you?
I think about desire, infused deep in the marrow of my bones, these soundless pleas housed in some far off chamber of my heart. My mind reels with questions. What if I’m not a special person? What if I’ll never do anything meaningful, or truly feel fulfilled? What if I don’t have what it takes? What if I end up with a strike out instead of a knock out?
Were you a fly on the wall of my Amazon purchases recently, you’d likely notice a pattern. Books about restlessness, desire, the power of saying yes and no, creating space to breathe, discovering the sweet hidden in the bitter, healing depression and anxiety. I often think back to a time when life didn’t seem to require so many trips to the self-help shelf, a time when passion didn’t have to be boxed in by a cubicle. And I think about all the people who say things like “if you don’t like what you’re doing, quit,” as if it were really that simple.
“But how do you even start?” I asked in the email. And I wonder, do I just have trust issues? How in the world do you balance practicality with trusting God, anyway?
Her response radiates two short words: just start.
She says find out who it is you want to be in the world, instead of what you want to do. The what always changes with the who. And face the hard parts, knowing that sometimes you won’t come alive the way you thought you would.
But sometimes you will.
So I hold on, just a little bit longer, rope fraying and hands bleeding. Because there will be a day when passion and purpose collide, and who says it won’t be tomorrow?
I’m going to try to take some time away for the holidays, and hopefully come back with some fresh perspectives in 2015.
Also because Lysa TerKeurst shared on her IG feed the other day that thinking about it, talking about it, and worrying about it is
not the same as praying about it. And there are some things I want to meet with Jesus about.