For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
~ Ephesians 2:8-10
I have had the opportunity to do a lot of contemplating on the essence of life lately and more specifically on the who behind the what. Growing up as a member of Generation X, much emphasis was placed on what we planned to do with our life and less so on the who behind the what. I had grand plans, as every naive college freshman does, of changing the world, of “being somebody”, of attaining my dreams of becoming the White House Press Secretary, Renowned Public Speaker, Mayor of Billings, and heck, why not a Widely Read Columnist Carried By Newspapers Around The Country for good measure. Aside from my lofty world-changing and career goals, there was another side of me that I didn’t give the time of day to for far too long.
Unlike most youngsters my age on a Sunday afternoon, when I was 5 years old, I would come home from church, bulletin in hand, stand on my bed and preach the Gospel. You would think that having started at such a young age I would already have my Master of Divinity and Doctor of Philosophy degrees. Alas, life took me down a different path, one that would enrich me with a wealth of experiences that I now believe God intended for use later on down the road. Experiences that, at the time were more than I could understand, let alone survive. But I did.
Throughout much of my life, however, I have felt called to be a pastor even before women were allowed to pastor a church. I chose to push those callings aside as it didn’t seem “prudent” for me as a career path, and yet the careers I pursued (yes, I have had several) have never felt like my calling. I always felt like there should be something more, that I should be something more, I just couldn’t define what that “more” was. This lack of “more-ness” made me very restless.
I have been involved with the Lutheran church for my entire life, a passionate believer, and after suffering a severe health crisis and brush with death in my twenties, an ardent pursuer of God’s purpose for keeping me around. I am still on that search. The one constant through the often chaotic changes in my life has been this nagging, pulling, whispering, and nudging from somewhere deep inside me to answer the call of the Lord. In all honesty, despite some turbulent times I encountered as a church council president, that is when I felt most at peace inside. Serving the church and the Lord in an administrative and leadership fashion seemed to satisfy my hunger for “more”. But I did nothing with it. When my terms were up I went on with the what’s in my “practical” life and I continued to be restless.
I recently read an article by Dr. Todd Hall, a psychologist, author, and workplace consultant, that discussed the importance of living a life of coherence. Living a life of coherence means you can tell a story about your life that brings everything together, “the various aspects of your life “hang together.” But they hang together because they are centered around the core of who you are.”
The path my life was following – to me at least – didn’t reflect a coherent life story, one that gave me a sense of purpose or fulfillment. Rather I was just going through the motions, trying to make the most of every day, but in the end, never really feeling fulfilled or that my life made any sense. Yes, I have always had faith despite my restless wandering. I believed God had a purpose for me, but I just did not know what – or maybe I was afraid of what His purpose for me entailed.
So how does one go about living a life of coherence? You start by examining your past and present life with a critical eye. Do your current goals and practices fit with your
deepest values? What are your deepest values, anyway? Is the way you are living your life: the work you do, the people you surround yourself with, the activities you engage in – are these things contributing to you becoming the kind of person you want to be? If not, perhaps you need to consider a change in how you approach your work or your life as a whole, and possibly, if it is your work leaving you feeling empty, a change of careers. If you are like me, it wasn’t so much that my past and present life didn’t fit with my core values, it was that I was limiting the scope of my life to the practical and what I had become comfortable with.
Wherever we are in our lives, we all need to feel that our lives make sense, “hang together” as Hall calls it, and have meaning. We need to feel that our lives reflect who we are, that our story is true to who we are. And at every stage of life, you have choice; you can choose to rebuild your life to become WHO you are or you can keep on feeling restless doing what you do.
Recently, on a spiritual retreat, I began my own journey to living a coherent life – to becoming WHO I AM. The retreat was the first of 4 in a 2-year program to become a Lay Pastoral Associate for my church. And for the first time in many years – since I completed my work in my church back home in Billings – I felt PEACE. I finally have a sense of peace in regards to the direction my life is taking. The awakening I experienced during that retreat confirmed what I have always known deep down in my heart but didn’t dare believe I could be anything more than what I already am. I have always known I was a child of God – my parents saw to that. But now I have accepted the responsibility – the cross you might say – of being a child of God who is blessed with gifts of the spirit – gifts that have been refined by God through all of my various jobs, dreams, losses, heartaches, toils and triumphs.
This journey I have been on (and will continue to travel) brought me to a point of discernment, discovery, and trust in His purpose for me. How it will all turn out is no clearer today than it was when I first began, but now I see my life through a different lens. I no longer see my life on a wayward trajectory with no purpose. On the contrary, all those potholes, U-turn’s, downhill sprints and uphill trudges were merely a training ground. I do know I am so blessed. Blessed to be alive, blessed to have lived the life I have so far, blessed to feel centered and focused in a positive direction, and blessed to be finally following I path I have pondered instead of wandered for far too long!!!
If you are restless or feeling empty in your life, I dare you to start a journey of your own… one of discernment that leads you to discovery and ultimately to you becoming WHO YOU ARE rather than defining yourself by what you do.
Let the light of WHO you are so shine, and shine brightly.