Looking Back to Go Ahead
Since last fall, I have been thinking about doing something new. At first it seemed like a daydream, an imaginative exercise, and then I realized I was actually considering it. I kept it close for awhile.
I’m a 3 on the Enneagram. Threes tend to achieve and perform for the praise of others. If you read Julie is Dead , you know I have a history of people-pleasing and managing others’ emotions. The still, small voice inside me can quickly be drowned out by the opinions of others. I can go to self-doubt at lightning speed if you raise your eyebrow over what I’ve said. I knew I needed to discern this next right thing for my life in silence and solitude.
A wise friend once said, “The thing you are resisting is usually the thing you need to lean into.” My Lenten practice of re-reading of old journals was not easy, nor did I expect it to be. In those pages, I encountered myself as faith-filled on one page and whining or full of doubt the very next. I saw misplaced anger and beating myself up over something I really had no control over. I read the hard moments with our children or my husband and the fears that were so real at the time and felt it all over again. I’d rather read anybody else’s words than my own. I’m strongly tempted to vacillate between regrets over who I was at that time or who I have become since that time. Sometimes I like yesterday’s version of me better than today’s and sometimes it’s the reverse. I see how fickle I am.
Yet every time I considered this decision I was making, I would have the thought, “It’ll be easier if you back into it.” I sensed I needed to turn and look at where I had been before moving forward with anything new. Though reading my past was difficult, it was good for me. If the Psalms teach me anything, it’s the value of remembering as a practice. The hardest part, though, is shifting my focus off myself to the real hero of the story.
The point of it all, of every single page I’ve written down about the happiness, heartache and tedium of my life is that God has been present with me. He has heard my prayers, come to my aid, and helped me over and over again. He was healing in the counselor’s office and dancing at my daughter’s wedding. He was singing through Sandra McCracken on Spotify and speaking through the minister on Sunday. He was present in the bread and wine when I knelt at the rail. He was carrying me while I carried boxes helping my children move. He was smiling at me across the dinner table in the face of a friend and reading to me from the pages of Scripture. He was coming to me through the breeze and the sunshine at the lake.
He has shown up in my friends and family when I needed help but was often too prideful to ask. He has taken the sting out of anger and sat with me in grief. He has brought order to chaos and filled up empty spaces. He has led me through the shadows and waited with me in the unknowns. I need to remember these things every time I start something new, every time I begin again.
t took me four months to step from my imagination into the real world and send an email inquiry. Somehow I knew when I gave my email address to a seminary I was beginning a conversation.
That is exactly what happened.
By late February I had completed my application and essays and was waiting during Lent to hear if I had been accepted. Starting in the fall of this year, I will be studying at Fuller Theological Seminary.
Remember when I stared in Grizzly’s face and heard: Be willing to let your life change. I had no idea, nor do I yet, what all that meant, but it means at least this much: I am going to become a student again. Instead of assigning and grading the papers, I will be writing them. I am opening myself up to whatever this studying and degree program will lead me to after I complete it, though I have no real picture of what that is.
I do know this: Looking back at the pages of my life recorded in those journals, I see a patient and ever-present God whose love has never ceased to find me. I see His kindness and endless mercy. He has walked me through loss and into light. I’m less afraid, dare I say brave, because He walks with me. I want to keep saying Yes to Him and letting my life change.
Photo credit: M.AugustaStudio