I always imagined that someday I would be one of those people who younger Christians look at with a wistful expression and say, “She is such a pillar of strength. Nothing shakes her. She’s a prayer warrior…it’s like she has some kind of God Bat-phone.”
So far that hasn’t happened.
I’m waiting for the Seismic Shift, for the tectonic plate of my second-half-of-life faith to overtake the first-half-of-life faith and form a mountain that raises me up to God.
So far that hasn’t happened either.
“Shouldn’t I look a lot different by now?”
I was nearing my 50th birthday and re-evaluating my relationship with God–especially my level of trust in him–when I shared this contemplation with my husband. (Thankfully, he didn’t say, ‘Honey, you look A LOT different than you did when I married you.’)
Lovingly tearing his eyes from his instructional golf video, he answered: “How do you think you should look?”
I knew instantly. The answer to such a question usually lies in the area of your life most needing to change.
The fact that change can take a lifetime is kind of discouraging. Yet, often the biggest and most needed change, especially in deepening our faith, comes with events that jolt us out of our ordinary.
Fr. Richard Rohr writes:
“Sooner or later, if you are on any classic ‘spiritual schedule,’ some event, person, death, idea, or relationship will enter your life that you simply cannot deal with, using your present skill set, your acquired knowledge, or your strong willpower. Spiritually speaking, you will be, you must be, led to the edge of your own private resources.”
The past two years have brought me to my knees if not exactly to the edge.
Following a complicated medical procedure, my youngest decided to make her first overseas experience a two-month journey into volatile countries.
I quit my secure full-time job to pursue a dream of freelance writing and editing full time.
We experienced personal struggles that strained relationships.
“This is the only way [God] can get you to change, let go of your egocentric preoccupations, and go on the further and larger journey.”
Then, at the beginning of 2017, I got the bright idea to choose “shepherded” as my guiding “one word” for the year. To help me be intentional in my focus, I continued a study we began in our house church on Phillip Keller’s A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23.
I made my plans as usual but stayed more open than ever to God directing my steps.
While Rohr describes scenarios we could categorize as “big shifts,” in life and therefore in faith, Keller shares what I consider a gradual and daily nudging, at least as it relates to the shepherd using his staff to guide his sheep.
“I have seen a shepherd use his staff to guide his sheep gently into a new path or through some gate or along dangerous, difficult routes. He does not use it actually to beat the beast. Rather, the tip of the long slender stick is laid gently against the animal’s side and the pressure applied guides the sheep in the way the owner wants it to go. Thus the sheep is reassured of its proper path.”
So things have happened.
This co-operative blog venture for one. I met Michelle at the Deeply Rooted conference in the fall of 2016, and God took us in a direction together that neither of us ever expected.
Also, as I write this, I face both a postponement of my dream to move to the country and a possible fork in the road with my career. (Not a shrimp fork, either, like a big girl fork.)
I don’t know what lies ahead, but I realize my faith has been shifted into a place of deeper trust.
Sometimes jarringly, threatening to crack the teeth I clench in my anxiety. Sometimes softly, like a father’s hand atop the head of a wayward child.
But, I pray, every change leads me onto the “proper path” of a “further and larger journey.”