I applied for a new job. I wanted it more than I dared to admit to anyone out loud. It would have changed our financial future while giving me a chance to work with college students in a way that felt important in the Kingdom of God. That’s what I wanted to do with my life before I started a family almost 15 years ago. This job felt like getting a second chance at my dream.
Getting chosen for this job was a very long shot. Everyone told me so. I knew it was true. But I applied anyway, because I knew I would be really good at it and I was pretty sure I would love it.
But I didn’t get it and I was devastated and I’ll never know exactly why I wasn’t chosen. It could have been ideological. The job was at a conservative Christian university and while I am a Christian, I’ll never be confused for a conservative and I haven’t been quiet on the internet about that. It could have been my lack of experience. That’s the reason he gave while he tried to small talk and let me down easy. Maybe it was my awkward interview. It’s entirely possible that I am not nearly as charming and witty as I thought. It could have been a lot of things.
I wish I could tell you that I cried for a minute and then dusted myself off and got back to business as usual. I wish I could tell you that in that moment, I held fast to the truth and trusted God for my next step.
That is not what happened.
I’ll tell you what thoughts came all too easily after I got the call that let me know they had decided to go with someone else.
“Why did you even apply?”
“You were too lazy to get a useful degree in college. Your family would be so much more secure if you had chosen better. You always take the easy way out.”
“Everyone else has life figured out.”
“Everyone else is so far ahead of you.”
“You’re 35. There is no catching up now.”
“Why did you tell literally everyone that you were applying? Everyone is laughing. They knew this would happen.”
“Why didn’t you go to grad school when you could have? You’re a liability.”
It took about three hours of this line of thought to find myself hollowed out and pretty paralyzed. I know none of these words are true. I know God loves me and has a plan for my family and for my life. I know the birds have food and the flowers have colors and I know who provides what we need. But I was still devastated by this disappointment. I was humiliated that I had tried something and failed. Isn’t it strange how natural it is to talk to ourselves in ways we wouldn’t speak to anyone else?
And you know what? I really thought I was above all that. I really thought I was too evolved to be affected by people’s opinions of me. I really thought my trust in a good God was impenetrable at this point. I’ve seen mountains move, even as recently as the last few weeks. Huge obstacles I thought were insurmountable have just turned to dust at my feet and I have stepped right over them. My children are healthy and strong. My house is safe and warm. I’ve watched people I love walk into deliverance and healing as the chains of violence and addiction and poverty have been broken in their lives. I’ve seen enough to know better, but I still couldn’t do better.
I was quite surprised to learn that when the heat gets turned up, I sweat just like everybody else. Prone to wander, Lord I feel it.
I’ve had sick kids for a week so in between administering remedies and cleaning messes I have had some time to really think, which is a rare gift around here. And I think I have learned something about myself I really needed to know.
As much as I offer lip service to providence, when the lights go out and the night gets long I am an anxious mess. I mean that literally. It takes an elaborate routine and a cocktail of herbs to get my mind to rest and even then it’s hit or miss. In the daylight, I have an intellectual trust in the idea of a loving God who supplies my needs and withholds nothing good but when push comes to shove, I still want the yoke of my choosing. I never stop to ask if the burden I’m chasing is too heavy for me. My heart and my hands are miles behind my head. I’m always striving, contingency planning, monitoring, managing, patrolling. I’m never resting, even when I’m still.
And you know what?
I’ve been here before. I remember this crossroad because I’ve seen it. I know I have two choices. I can continue on in my own choreography, stepping and spinning to the rhythm of my pounding heart. Or I can stop the tape and replace it.
I remember the practice of spiritual breathing, inhaling the spirit of God and exhaling my anxiety.
I remember the mystery of the Scriptures, this book that lives and gives life. The words of the saints and the Savior always speak into my soul when I can bring myself to read them. Why do I wait so long to read them? How long will I keep waiting to read them?
I remember the women who built me up when I found myself broken. I remember the mountains they’ve climbed and I remember their wailing prayers in the valley. I remember watching them walk blamelessly as their husbands and children and security and plans fell away, walked away, were torn away. The testimony of these women lifts my gaze off of myself and turns my eyes back to the hills.
And then I remember how to pray.
Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy. Have mercy on me. Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, your loved one. Your loved one. Loved.
And slowly, I find my place again. God is patient and gentle with me while I make my way to where He waits for me.
God, you are my Shepherd and I know I want for nothing.
You are bringing me back to green pastures again where your peace and beauty restore my weary soul.
My feet find your path again because I remember now that it’s always been my home.
You are never never never angry or disappointed in me when the valley gets too dark and I fall into fear again.
You are with me even then, even there. You guide my steps and Your voice is my comfort. I want to follow you because I know that when I am near you, I am safe.
You remind me that my place is always with you at your table and I can see it spread before me, even in the presence of my enemies.
I feel your anointing on my head again. It feels like my own hand on the head of my child and I lean in to your palm.
And here is my cup and its already overflowing and you are pouring more, more, more, always more.
Oh my God, your goodness! Your mercy! My God, this is how you have followed me all the days of my life.
I know I will dwell at home with you, my God, my whole life long.