Monday, November 26, 2012

One Year Ago Today

Do you ever ask yourself this question?

"Where was I one year ago today?" What was my life like? What has changed since then?

Well, today -- my answer to that question is, "Pretty much everything." A dear friend told me last week that she sees that this season of my life is one of the most freeing seasons, while simultaneously being somewhat restricting. And she is right. I'm wincing at the truth of that statement.

But the hope and joy is that the freedom is Permanent, and the restriction is Temporary. I'm smiling at that truth.

In related news, I will walk across a stage on December 15th to receive my Master of Science degree in Marriage and Family Therapy. I may dance, actually, or do a cartwheel. Much energy and emotion has gone into the earning of this degree for me. I found out I was pregnant with my daughter just two weeks into starting my first term. I remember traveling to Ft. Smith, AR, for a Tuesday-Thursday class on pathology, and how it's hot as Hell (yes, the literal Hell) in Ft. Smith in the summer, and how I had morning sickness except it was all day sickness, and how I usually stayed in a hotel room for those two intervening nights so I didn't have to drive round trip on Tuesday and Thursday...I spent a lot of time alone that summer. I was pretty lonely. But I was hopeful about the two things I was birthing -- a baby human, and a graduate degree.

The baby human is now a two year old human (three in February) who looked at me this weekend and said, "No! YOU do what I say!" But earlier that day, when she was sitting next to me on the couch, she put her hand on my cheek and said, "I love my Mommy." So she's still figuring some things out, and I can be patient with that.

The graduate degree, and the energy I put into earning it, has pretty much caused the most accelerated season of evolution I have experienced in my life since college. But there's one glaring difference. When I was in college, I still - for the most part - saw God as someone who loved me because He had to. He's infinite, and He's perfect, and so out of his infinite patience and perfection He can somehow muster up enough will to endure my endless screw ups. He was The God of The Perpetual Eye Rolls. If you asked me if I believed God loved me, my gut-level honest answer would have been, "Well, yeah. He's God and He loves everyone. But really, this is just a silly, simplistic grade school platitude, and I get it, and so now I am more concerned with how to be a Really Serious Christian."

Zoom forward three years, and my Really Serious Christianity had turned out not to be the bargain that I had expected. I was supposed to keep my nose clean, and God was supposed to keep my life in order. When my parents divorced and my life became a tornado of pain and shame, I realized that somewhere along the way I had been sold a bill of goods. This is not an uncommon experience. Churches often employ formulas to inspire allegiance in their followers. "If you do right by God, then He'll do right by you!" As if any, ANY of my blessings originate with me in any way...! (They don't.) I started reading Brennan Manning, and Anne Lamott, and Annie Dillard, and Henri Nouwen...and I relaxed a little bit.

Now zoom forward ten more years, and I realize that I let God off the hook back then - but I didn't let myself off the hook. My self-reliance, my determination to Make It impulse to grab you by the wrist and say, "Hey! Come on! We're gonna do this," was still firmly intact. And while this instinct is not entirely bad, it has often led me to some very lonely places. And, UGH. I'm sick to death of being lonely. I can't completely control whether I'm alone; I know this. But I do have some say into whether I'm lonely or not. And so, I'm releasing your wrist and I'm opening both hands and I'm just waiting to see what - or whom - will fall into them. And, conversely, who will fall out. That part is not easy for this lady who has spent much of her life defined by her relationships. That one's a bitch, isn't it? I was defined by my relationships, but I was still lonely much of the time. And that's the price I paid for trying to Make It Happen -- which is to say, it was never completely up to me.

But as I let go in this way, and as I give others the right to choose me, or not...I am joyfully aware of a community of grace-filled and wisdom-saturated individuals with whom I can laugh and cry and marvel at the vast, vast goodness of our God.

And it is good.