It (wasn’t) supposed to be this way. The title words of a current New York Times best-selling book, though I haven’t read it, and words that seem to roll off my tongue as easy as my name.
It is New Year’s Eve. By my choosing, I am alone, reflecting in the warmth of my home. The fire is lit, the candles are burning, classical music is driving my thoughts to paper as a nasty winter storm of rain, wind, and snow torments the last night of the year and decade, a decade, that for me, embodied the most dramatic changes to life as I know it than any other decade before.
I have spent many New Year’s Eves in this reflective state of mind – it’s what I do – my idea of fun – and I have uttered those 7 words far more than I care to admit, of late. Perhaps it is because I have taken far more leaps of faith in the last 10 years than any time before – leaps of faith that did not transpire in the manner I had fully expected them to. The certainty with which I once approached my carefully constructed life has been upended – except for the certain discomfort in the realization that I am not God and I have far less control over what happens in my life than I once thought. The transience of life itself – the impermanence of it all – it is all so disconcerting!
It wasn’t supposed to be this way!!!
“No one has ever seen God.” – John 1:18
The few times I have sensed surety, confidence, and purpose seem overshadowed by scenes right out of Paul Newman’s epic story of epiphany, Cool Hand Luke, where in the middle of a thunderstorm Luke yells up to the thunder and lightning, addressing God, “Let me know you’re up there. Come on. Love me, hate me, kill me, anything. Just let me know it.” It wasn’t supposed to be this way!!!
In the last ten years, I took flight, left my career, my family, and my friends behind and ventured west in pursuit of love and my love of the mountains – only to be broken by both. I found my voice, I ventured into the unknown, I began a new career and I made myself a nest in a wonderfully hot and cold apartment above an amazing landlord’s garage. My dog died. My mother died unexpectedly. I faced a frightening illness that in all rights should have claimed me on a mountainside. Then came my father’s last year of life and death – almost a year to the day after my mother’s – in a manner so unworthy of the life he had lived I still can’t comprehend it. I bought my first home and surrendered my life to it. I brought a new dog into my life. I fulfilled a dream by completing my lay pastoral associate program and becoming an “official” proclaimer of God’s word. And finally, I married and had that marriage abruptly end. This last blow caused me to question who I was and why I was even here.
It wasn’t supposed to be this way!!!
Despite being a “proclaimer of the Good News”, I have felt a huge void between my concept of faith and my God and the whole of this thing I am devoted to called church. I have felt estranged and very much alone.
“All things came into being through him, and without him, not one thing came into being.” John 1: 3
But it was in this darkness, this void of meaning and being and purpose that I was enduring, that God began to speak to me. (Side note here: QUESTIONING my faith is one of the greatest things I have ever done to INCREASE my faith and deepen my relationship with God. So, question and doubt away!!)
“The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.” – John 1:5
I began to realize that God seemed so distant – even absent – because the God I expected to be ruling over me, the God I was at once looking for and hiding from, does not exist. God revealed himself to me in the truth of my broken and difficult circumstances.
“And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.”- John 1:14
I was able to see the truth lighting the way to who and what God really is. It was as if He brought me into this void of darkness and despair in order to reveal the true light of God to me.
“From his fullness, we have all received, grace upon grace. The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” – John1: 16-17
Grace upon Grace.
Grace and truth.
It wasn’t supposed to be this way!!!
Or was it???
In the last ten years, I took flight, left my career, my family and my friends behind and ventured west in pursuit of love and my love of the mountains – I found both, was broken by both and ventured into both again more determined than ever.
I found my voice and have learned to speak my mind – not what I think my parents would want me to say but what I believe. I found my voice and let it rise in song before audiences I would never have dreamed of having or had the opportunity to have before.
I ventured into the unknown and made the unknown my home and in the process realized that the two feet and skinny legs God gave me weren’t just made for running but made for standing on my own. I began a new career and with it found new challenges and new opportunities to expand my skills and realized that I not only had a heart but also had a brain!
The nest I made for myself in that wonderfully hot and cold apartment above an amazing landlord’s garage was just the place I needed to grow wings and fly. 4 years later, I bought my first home, surrendered my life to it, and now come home every day to my slice of heaven and a safe harbor from the torments of the world around me.
When my beloved dog died leaving my heart hurt and empty, his passing made enough space in my heart for me to give my love again to another wonderful four-legged friend who has literally changed my life for the better in so many ways.
While my mother died unexpectedly, she died in peace on the first day of Spring and the beginning of Holy Week. Though I did not get to tell her goodbye – my last words to her were “I love you more than words can say,” the last time I saw her. Navigating her death during the holiest time of year changed the course of my grief into a celebration of her new life. The timing really could not have been more perfect.
I survived that frightening illness that in all rights should have claimed me on a mountainside – and I now have a greater sense of responsibility for my health and a bit more humility in the wilderness.
Yes, my father’s last year of life and death – almost a year to the day after my mother’s – was indeed in a manner so unworthy of the life he had lived. While, I still can’t comprehend it, I was able to hear him say my name one last time and I was with him as he breathed his last breath in a peace with God that surpasses all understanding. In his living and his dying, he taught me that no one escapes death. In the end we have no control over how or when we die so I should live and live well while I can.
In the wake of great loss, I fulfilled a lifelong yearning by completing my lay pastoral associate program and becoming an “official” proclaimer of God’s word. And now, with each passing adventure, I can do that ever more authentically!
I was married and had that marriage abruptly end. While I am still going through this difficult ending in my life, I know the truth. God will use this chapter in my life in ways I cannot yet comprehend. I know that God was walking with me as I glimpsed sheer joy and sheer despair, and He is walking with me now as I find grace upon grace upon grace. The truest Light, the One True Love who is greater than any mountain and the One whose light is greater than any darkness, is with me and in me.
“In him (IS) life and the life (IS) the light of all people.” – John 1:4
As a new year and a new decade dawns- I have no idea how things will be or are even supposed to be, but I do have an abiding hope; and I have faith in the things to come as all things are of God, from God, and with God. I call it 20/20 faith – gleaned from hindsight and the knowledge that my God is a loving, wildly creative, merciful God and He is doing a new thing. I can’t wait to see it fulfilled in me.
It’s supposed to be that way!!!
I pray that His promise is realized in you, too.
“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” – John 1:5
Let your light so shine.