And He Will Make Your Paths Straight

And He Will Make Your Path Straight

My fourth summer in Nashville and I’m still not accustomed to it—the fast and furious rain storms that interrupt your day in the rudest way and leave you, just as suddenly as they came, walking along steamy pavement. This girl from the desert of south Texas is still surprised that rain in the summer even happens.

I watched a downpour like this the other day from the safety of my living room. People were on the street one minute and then nowhere to be seen the next. They had wisely run for cover. This particular rain was the vision-impairing kind that wouldn’t allow you to get anywhere fast anyways. A thick sheet of rain.

I haven’t made a major life change in almost five years. My last one was moving to Nashville, where I live now, to work at a book publishing house where I worked until this last Friday. This is the first Monday in 23 years that I have woken up neither an “employee” nor a “student.” It would be fair to say I am looking at a thick sheet of rain. I will probably be looking at it tomorrow too and many days thereafter. This is what it feels like to have an uncertain future. To leave a job you love and people you loved working with to do something you’ve known for a while now that you are supposed to do.

About a year ago after a succession of events I will write about in due time, I knew I was ready to start to pray about a job transition. And a few months ago I knew it was time to start to plan for said transition. And a few weeks ago, it was time to make it. I put in a five weeks notice, and here I sit on my stone on my uncertain path staring at the thick sheet of rain.

This is as descriptive as I can be about my next step at the moment: I’m going to be Doing My Writing Thing. At best, I’ve piddled in writing since I started a full-time job. I’ve freelanced here and there, been on and off this blog, taken a few weekends to work on longer creative pieces that are more fun than they are focused, and it’s time to get real about it.

I’ve never leapt like this before. My life to date has been about sensible choices. College, graduate school, career. I have felt safe in these decisions and yes they were challenging and scary when they started, but nothing has been quite so unclear as this next step. Never has my future looked so blurry. I can do nothing to get it into focus, squint as I may.

Sometimes several stones ahead of us on the path are illuminated. It’s so nice when that happens, isn’t it? When you kinda know what’s coming next, and the education and career track you are on are clear. Then there are those times when it seems only the stone you stand on and maybe one or two ahead of you are lit. Everything else? Dark.

We can’t know what’s next, and that’s difficult for we humans still not convinced of our mortality. But we can trust what’s next.

As I stand on my one illuminated stone, I don’t know what else to do except cling to this: “In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight” (Prov. 3:6). And he will make your paths straight. Not clear. Straight. We aren’t promised that we will know what’s next, we are promised something better: that what’s next will be in the right direction. It will be straight ahead because he will make it so.

The Risk of Getting to Know People

The Risk of Getting to Know People

I think I’m getting worse at knowing people. What I mean is, I used to be able to ask new acquaintances endless questions about themselves. This is because I have good parents who are good at asking people questions, so I learned this from them. I’m still more of an asker and listener than a talker, but I remember after my first year out of college realizing this had gotten more difficult for me; it took more energy to keep asking questions. I blamed this on the fact I was living in England and people are less nosy about other people there in general. But I notice it still. It is much easier to not ask someone about her story, to just let it be and keep talking about the weather.

I wonder if we get weary of this because we’ve heard all of the sad answers by now. When you enter into the great big world, you ask a stranger a question and you hear about his heartache and abuse and sadness and failures and, well, it would just be easier to not hear those things. I wonder also if we get more consumed by our own heartaches, failures and sadnesses and feel we don’t have room to know anyone else’s.

I actually have to muster up physical energy at times now when I dig into someone’s story, whereas when I was younger, it felt effortless.

And I’ve felt ashamed of this. Do I not care about people anymore? What is this wall that has so suddenly grown up between me and humanity? Where did it come from and how do I knock it down?

I’m not sure how, but I am sure how to keep the wall there, strong and steady. Stop getting to know people. Just stop. We could all agree to coexist and walk side by side without facing each other, looking each other in the eye and asking, “how are you?” Because we’ve heard the answer too many times.

If this sounds remotely appealing to you, you’re not alone. I’ve thought this before. Like when I was hiking with a friend this weekend. She’s been divorced for  a few years but I had never asked her much about the details of the divorce. How it felt, how it hurt, how it even happened, logistics wise. I thought about not asking her these things and staying away from the details and safe on the surface, but I mustered the energy somehow and as we walked through tress and crunched branches with our feet, I dug into her story. And the walk felt surprisingly refreshing and the questions came easier as I allowed myself to ask them. And we know each other better now.

Being known is a desire at the core of us all and though only God knows us fully, I believe he gave us the gift of conversation and each other so we could subsist on a taste of being slightly known while here on this earth. To get a glimpse of what being wholly known could be like. And when I think of it this way, the dangers of asking a friend about herself and getting to know her better is still scary, vulnerable and hard work but it becomes worthwhile work. Because I know I’m chipping away at the wall to reveal a path between us, and the path looks a little like eternity.

Our Jobs, Our Calling, The Fall

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I just came off a weekend with some wonderful people: my little sister, Sara, and her fiancé (my future brother-in-law!), Jeff. We talked about many things and of course at some point the conversation turned to our callings in work, as it often does when you are a group of twenty somethings.

I think the years in your twenties can be multiplied by 7, like dog years. You experience life so quickly and furiously in that post-college time. You are forced to absorb and learn at a highly concentrated level. From 22 to 27, so much can change, and with it, your perspective on most things. I realized this as I noticed so much growth in my little sister. Who was this 24-year-old person on my sofa? And I felt this about myself too. My perspective at 24 was so different from what it is now, at 27. Especially in the area of work and our calling.

When I was 24, I was in a job that was not a great fit for me. Not terrible, but not great. But the “not great” part was all I focused on. I was very anxious about my job and very restless for the next thing. I wanted to find out exactly what my calling was and do only that. I thought if I found the job that was my calling, I would love it and jump out of bed every morning, even on Mondays.

I’ve felt this way for most of my twenties. Even when I got a new job that was a much better fit for me and that gave me more joy, I have prayed that God would show me exactly what he wants me to do and give me the courage to do it.

A few months ago I began reading a book called The Call by Os Guinness. I loved the title and decided by the time I finished it, I would have a clear picture of God’s will for my life. This was going to be great. Then, I read this paragraph and it’s basically all I’m thinking about right now:

“…it is easy to become spoiled if we concentrate on the core of our giftedness—as if the universe existed only to fulfill our gifts….We live in a fallen world and the core of our gifts may not be fulfilled in our lives on earth. If there had been no Fall, all our work would have naturally and fully expressed who we are and exercised the gifts we have been given. But after the Fall, that is not so.”

When I first read that part of the book, I fought it. No, I thought, I will “arrive” one day. I will discover my perfect calling. It’s here, and I’m going to find it.

But what if it’s not? What if things fell and now they are broken? How quickly I forget that. How quickly I get discouraged and wonder why I don’t feel content or why work is so hard sometimes. Maybe it’s because it’s supposed to be. Maybe it’s to remind us that things are broken here.

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I am, shockingly, beginning to find comfort in this thought. It carries over into all areas of our lives. We scramble for perfection, peace, clarity and happiness, but are they here? Sometimes, yes, but also sometimes no. And they’re not meant to be. Eternity is in our hearts, so we long for it everywhere. But when we don’t find the wholeness here on earth, we are forced to look forward and upward. The brokenness is a promise for the whole that is coming and when I see it that way, it doesn’t lessen the longing, but it does sink in the hope.

What Is the Role of a Christian Woman?

A question I began asking myself long before I began this series in January. It’s loaded. That may be one answer to it agreed upon by all. That may be the one thing I know for sure about it. It’s one I wasn’t sure I would address this year. My thoughts are scattered. They change daily. Sometimes I have it all figured out and am at peace with my gender’s role in my faith and in my culture. Then I hear or read something that returns me to square one, wondering what my role is, how much of a role I have and if my opinions are even loosely based on biblical principles. Sometimes they are but I’m seeing more and more that they often aren’t.

I’m not going to answer this question in one post. That’s impossible. I have too many specific role questions: What is my role as a female in the church? What is my role as the female in a relationship? What is my role as a female in the family setting? In work? In writing? I won’t cover all of these, unless I feel extremely compelled, but I will address some.

It’s so important to understand someone’s lenses when understanding how she might address this type of question. For me, that’s a lens of a twenty-something, single, raised in the evangelical church and encouraged to pursue my wildest dreams by both my parents. My mom was a stay-at-home once she started having us. My dad has always worked. The women in my extended family are about split: some are stay-at-home moms, others work. I never felt pressured to be one thing or the other. There was always talk about “when I had a family” and there was always talk about “when I had a job in the real world.”

Basically, I was raised in a family that spans the spectrum of what the female role in society and church can look like. I’m grateful for that diverse environment. I realize that it created the freedom I have now to even explore this question. But no matter how free that environment may have been for some of us, it could never free us from cultural stigmas or expectations. The things that make us wonder about all of this. The things that make up definitions to words and phrases like “feminism,” “sex,” “separate but equal.”

I’m not sure if a more confusing message exists than that of what role women should play. What is right? What is wrong? What is sinful? What is honoring?

I’m afraid to say this, but I feel I have to: Let’s discuss.