August 1, 2010

Stumbling towards contentment

Last night over a lovely homemade pizza (Jrex learned from my many mistakes over the years and his first pizza was a resounding success), I asked Jrex how I should blog about contentment. “There’s nothing to write about. It’s great to live, but not a compelling story line.”

He tilted his head and thought about it, “You could write about how you’ve become content versus your old restlessness.”

He had a good point. Why have I laid aside my (usually thwarted) restless need to be doing something, moving somewhere, changing lives, having babies and/or creating art? Four years into our then troubled marriage, a counselor kept encouraging me to accept where I was and where Jrex was in life. I resisted that wisdom with all my might. For me, accepting meant giving up and surrendering to being completely stuck. Why would I accept stuckness? That felt like emotional suicide. So I kept pushing and pushing. It took two subsequent years of marriage counseling for me to finally stop pushing (which had the wonderful effect of allowing Jrex to stop withdrawing).

Before moving to California, my sense for WHY we were moving came from a passage where God shows one of the Hebrew prophets (Ezekial) a picture of a trickle of water coming out from the temple. That trickle later becomes a river along whose banks grow trees with leaves “for the healing of the nations”. I sensed that our time in California was for the release of that trickle. It wouldn’t be a huge river while we were here, but where we’d been in a desert for a long, long time, a small trickle would begin.

Soon after moving, I did a prayer retreat with my church. As I sat alone on the banks of a stream, I wistfully looked at the bright water and wanted desperately to be able to bless others and then move along to the next new thing. In the midst of that thought, I felt a quiet, persistent thought, “I don’t want you to be a stream, I want you to be a tree.” I looked up and saw a huge redwood across the stream. My gut reaction was, “But then I’ll REALLY be stuck!!!” I cried and prayed about that for a while. Once I’d calmed down I began to sense why He might want that. He showed me how a large tree becomes a haven for others. He reminded me of a verse that talks about us being “rooted and established in love”. He reminded me of the image in Ezekial of the trees that are for healing.

In the last couple months, I’ve sensed Him asking me to lay down what I thought my life was going to be about. As a kid I’d always had a picture of me and a dog, or later, me and a son traveling the world. I saw myself mothering abandoned kids, starting an orphanage, changing lives. I was convinced I would live in a place where people doubted that God exists and I’d be there to be His hands, His heart, and His expression of love for them. Instead here I was in a small apartment, tending to one man and one silly dog. Could I give up my need to DO (my Plan A)? Could I also give up the picture I’d created of a house of healing for broken Christians (my Plan B)? Could I just wait for Him to give me His dreams instead? Could I wait in emptiness and content myself with just seeking Him?

I’m definitely not there yet. I haven’t finished writing down all the details of Plan A and Plan B. I know I’m supposed to do that and then burn the pages. (I love creating rituals, especially if they involve fire!) Jrex told me last week that he has a sense that I need to give up my identity as a mother, too. Not that we’ll never have kids, but that I need to lay down the image I’ve had around that.

Sigh. I feel like I’ve mostly accepted my quiet reality (or at least, I’ve stopped thrashing around in stubborn resistance), but I’m still just starting on the journey toward contentment. It’s hard to blog in the midst of this process since I don’t have a big enough picture to fit it into a coherent narrative, but I figure glimpses of the process are sometimes as helpful as the finished story.


Inkling said...

This is a lovely post on so many levels. And I don't mean lovely in the sense that it's happy-go-lucky, but lovely in that it is beautiful and deep and open. Out of what you shared, I felt God encouraging me in my own journey (especially the marriage part, so thank you).

What you said about wanting to be a source of healing resonated with me too. In my own life, though we've never met in person, you have been that source, both through your practical gift for my medical need and through your posts that spur me to grow and think differently. For me, you are already a healing stream or a haven of a tree.

As for the dreaming and wondering what God has for you....I recently found a paper with a picture and a "life motto/purpose statement" written on it that I created a few years ago at a conference. When I wrote it, I had one idea in mind about how I would accomplish that purpose. But now, looking at that statement and seeing all the challenges and hard adventures of the past few years, I see that God is bringing it to fruition in a totally different way. What is cool for me is that the statement isn't totally null and void, but that though the reality of what I imagined is different, God really is allowing it to come to fruition. I hope that makes sense. And I hope that for you too as you give God your dreams and plans and ask Him to show you His dreams and plans.

Oh, and the movie star bit you mentioned in yoru comment today....not really a movie star, but somebody who kind of creates them and directs them.

Life of a Doctor's Wife said...

Oh my this post is beautiful. It really speaks to me. I am so glad that you are finding contentment. And I mean that - finding. That you are on this journey and you know it may not always be easy, but that you going forward with your eyes and your heart open.

Thank you so much for sharing this.

Rachel said...

I love this post. It can be so hard to let go of the vision of what you think your life should be. I'm glad you are on the journey toward contentment.

jooliyah said...

i GET this post. but i'm the opposite. i've always wanted to be the tree. i always thought happiness would be putting down firm roots somewhere and having the home where people could come over anytime to gather at. instead, God keeps uprooting us and i'm learning about how to bless people along the way......i keep hoping our next move will be our last and i'll really be able to make a HOME.

it's good to hear about the peace you are finding. i'm just starting to stop the thrashing.

thanks for writing this from your heart.

Anonymous said...

Honestly, I learn so much every time I drop by here. You're awesome.