Friends say she hasn’t disappeared, but she’s seen less often at groups and activities they, too, wish they could ditch but don’t have the guts. They are activities that don’t really feed their spirit or match their interests anymore but they find it hard to say “no.”
She still makes regular appearances at funerals, church services and cultural events, still dotes on her family. But something’s different.
She doesn’t talk as much and chooses her words more carefully. She seems to live more in the moment and pays more attention to the people and things happening around her–things she missed before because she was moving too fast, pushed by an overloaded agenda. She seems to have lost interest in pursuing the careers in which she made her mark. She worries less. Those closest to her say they find her hanging out with people who cross her path who have a need–sometimes needs that are visible, some that are hidden–people she will likely never see again. It doesn’t make sense.
She knew she was fortunate the past few years not to have to work, because of her husband’s employment. But she had always wanted to work, loved her careers. This new regimen was unfamiliar, unsettling, and definitely less public.
I asked her once if she was trying to develop a following or a new calling…or explore a more inventive stream of income. She found the idea ludicrous, saying she was waiting for God to reveal “next steps” in her own life and was simply showing up each day–albeit impatient for more details–trying to stay alert to opportunities, without regard to any return she would receive. The people and circumstances just presented themselves.
It was an uncomfortable way to live, given her penchant for plans and To Do lists and calendars to ensure that no moment was wasted. Old friends were uncomfortable, too. They said she needed to spend her time more intentionally. She needed to step up and fill needs they identified for her but which just gave her heartburn. She needed to be productive, set more goals. If she had free time, she dare not turn away any request. It was her spiritual duty (as if what she was doing was not spiritual). It was really hard on her as a recovering people pleaser.
It wasn’t as if she decided to drop out. Doors closed. Others had not opened. She hated the waiting. Always had. She wrestled with God. “What’s up with this, Lord. Didn’t you say, ‘Of whom much is given, much is required?’ There’s no name for what I’m doing, no title. It doesn’t bring in any income. Others will never know what, if any, good has been done, because you keep placing me in situations which need to stay confidential.”
And so she wakes up every day and does it again until those ephemeral next steps appear.
Unless, of course, they already have.
The person I’ve described is me, facing myself and not recognizing who is looking back at me. And, as I wait, I have to admit the lessons learned pile up. Lessons about not worrying what people think, learning to say “no,” serving out of our giftedness and not out of the pressure of someone else’s shoulds and oughts, abandoning the obsession with explaining myself so I won’t be misunderstood. A graduate course in being a grown-up.
As I’ve aged, my daughter occasionally kids me, saying, “Ma, have you figured out yet what you’re going to be when you grow up?”
Nope. Still working on it. But God hasn’t stopped working in me in the meantime.
Nothing is wasted. Not even when you’re waiting.