Have you ever felt like the road you were on suddenly fell off the map? Like Google Maps suddenly updated and now the route you thought was going to lead you where you needed and wanted to go no longer exists?
I have to admit I have felt that way a lot over the last several years.
At nearly 50, I have often struggled to find my place – my place in the workplace, my place in my personal life, my place with my gifts and talents.
Don’t get me wrong – I have had some very exciting and fulfilling times in my life, but at the moment I feel a little like I’m wandering in the desert.
I don’t know about you, but I just thought at some point it would get easier. After all, I have already made it through a significant number of challenges.
Putting aside my childhood and the struggles there, I have been through 2 divorces, the suicide of a stepson, years of being sick and having surgery after surgery, and loss – or perhaps a complete lack – of financial stability.
About 4 years ago, I had finally landed a decent paying job that allowed me to use my creativity and skills, had found some success in local theater groups, and felt ready to return home to Colorado to spend quality time with family and reestablish my community there.
I’m pretty sure I have heard God laughing at my plan many, many times over the last few years.
First, the job I moved with fell apart…as have 2 successive positions….
…and several of the family members i had moved back to reconnect with – 0r, in some cases, begin a relationship with – moved out-of-state…
…and some promising acting work disappeared like ashes in the wind.
Now, here I am almost 50 years old with not a lot to hold up to the world around me to say this is what I have accomplished with my life – isn’t it great?
Don’t get me wrong. I know that it isn’t the amount of stuff one has, the size of the bank account or the plaques on the wall that determine a successful life. I have had many successes thus far. I have traveled, acted, sung, and met some amazing people who have made an indelible mark on my life. I have had good jobs, grown in my faith, and become a more secure individual…
..and yet, here I sit, feeling as though I am standing in the middle of a desert chasing mirages of what my life is supposed to be only to find I am chasing after shifting sands, never to reach the destination I thought was in front of me.
What makes this even more challenging is that as a Christian, both the Christian and non-Christian communities often look at my life and others like it and express thoughts that I am not “doing” Christianity right. If I were a more faithful Christian woman, would I not have a good man beside me? Would I not feel more settled and satisfied? Would I not be harvesting the “fruit” of my well-lived Christian life?
To those people, I have to kindly say absolutely not.
The Bible is filled with passages about the struggles we as humans will face. There is not any “ifs” about it. Life will be hard regardless of your faith.
Ok – well what about those passages that tell me I should be rejoicing in my struggles? That I should be perfectly content in its imperfection. Aren’t we as Christians called to trust in the Lord always and not be anxious about anything?
Yes. We are. But the truth of the matter is that I – like all of you – am human and while these are great goals to reach for, they are not always attainable on a consistent basis.
I, for one, am anxious!
I am anxious about where my next paycheck is going to come from, whether or not I will have the money I need to make rent, and what the next few months of my life are going to look like. I am anxious about the thought of living the rest of my life alone and knowing that the struggle is likely only going to continue or get worse, not better. And I am anxious about the thought that maybe I missed a turn I was supposed to take; a route that was marked for me that I missed or was too fearful or arrogant to take and now it is lost to me.
And I do not count all of this joy. While there are joyful aspects of where my life is now, I am tired of the struggle.
I ache to be using the gifts and talents I have to be making my way through this life; getting paid to do what I love and have a talent for rather than having to make do with a “day job” and not truly live.
I yearn to be writing for a living, able to use my words to tell stories people long to read and receive intellectual and emotional nourishment from and receiving some monetary accommodation for this.
I long to be able to act and sing and not actually have to sacrifice acting and singing opportunities because the 9 to 5 grind that I endure in order to pay the bills and make ends meet makes it nearly impossible to allow these things to be a part of life.
I crave a connection to another human being that is not superficial but rather emotionally, spiritually and physically fulfilling; to have another person in my life that can walk with me in the ebbs and flows of life and come out the other side still willing to walk some more.
But here’s the thing.
Even with all the feelings of sadness and the chasm of uncertainty I currently feel, I know that I am blessed.
I am blessed because I know that my God is big enough to hear my pain and to help me carry it. He is not angry with me because I am not cheerful about my struggles nor is he going to smite me because I fail to uphold this image of what a “true Christian” is.
Life is hard. There are struggles – some big and some small – that we all must face during our time here on this earth. I know that the struggles I am having today are not nearly as challenging as some you may be facing. They are certainly not the hardest struggles I’ve had in my life, but they are significant enough for me to want it to end – like, now would be great.
Much as I wish God would shoot me a text telling me what it is I am supposed to be doing with my life at this stage of the game, that isn’t going to happen. I, like all of you, have to wait. I have to continue to work at finding a new job so I know I can pay my rent and wait for a time when those horrendous “thanks, but no thanks” emails are replaced by a “we want YOU” email.
I have to wait to hear the answers to my prayers that are spoken with my heart and my mouth on a daily (or hourly) basis and I have to remember to keep my spirit ready for the answers God sends because they are not often the answers I hope they would be.
And I have to keep chasing that dream that is in front of me which may or may not end up being a mirage because to stop following it is to give up – and I refuse to give up.
After all, God doesn’t give up on me. What right do I have to give up on myself?
So here I am, chasing mirages. If you are here in the desert with me, send up a white flag
and maybe we can walk a little bit of this together.