“We are not of this world, and the world has no affection for us, and for good reason.”
Over the past two years, I’ve felt that my life was lingering in limbo — somewhere between then and when. It was a sweltering late summer afternoon when I attended Mass for the Feast of the Assumption, and I did so sans children or husband. It was a rare moment for me to commune with the Lord and truly ponder, in gratitude and silence, His works in my life.
As I was praying before the processional began, my heart was stricken with a sort of knowledge I couldn’t readily explain. All at once I saw people trickling in to Mass — people I knew very well, who were good friends for years — and I felt distant from them. The Lord spoke to my heart, “Jeannie, you must learn to detach. Life will be changing for you soon.” I knew in that instant that we would be moving away from our beloved parish of nearly ten years, though I didn’t know when.
As the tears glistened my cheeks without warning, I was thrust into a spiritual place of neither here nor there, a place of waiting.
Shortly thereafter, I sensed the Lord calling me into the wilderness. This was a spiritual desert, not that I was meant to become St. John the Baptist and start wearing a hair shirt and eating locusts. It didn’t happen right away, but my heart tugged more and more away from the world and into that inner sanctuary where I knew God was waiting for me to meet Him. The recesses of my heart beckoned me every day I wandered outside the walls of our modest country home and into my soul.
I realized two years ago at the beginning of this mysterious journey that God wanted me to forsake the life we had built, but I wasn’t entirely ready to relinquish it. He was asking me to ask Him those burning questions: “Where are you leading me?” and “What do you want me to do?” and I did. But the answers didn’t come immediately.
Then Ben and I moved our family six months ago to a new city and home and neighborhood and parish. All of us feel displaced in more ways than one. That lingering between then and when continues, but it’s a place, I’ve learned, of refinement and tempering. It’s a place of pruning.
Waiting has that effect on us. The Lord draws us – entices us, even – into the desert, though we aren’t certain we want to follow His lead. We know that desolation often accompanies desert waiting, and perhaps we’ve become accustomed to a specific routine or familiar surroundings and people. In my case, the Lord knew I had become completely at ease with every aspect of how my life was unfolding, and it was time for me to let go of it all and enter into a deeper well of trust somewhere I had never before gone within my soul.
Then was the time when I knew everyone in our small, rural parish. Then was when I could walk through every room of our home in the blackest part of night and still know my way around intuitively. Then was getting together with friends who knew my life story and my quirks without me having to start from the beginning and share really painful points of vulnerability.
When existed somewhere in the future. It was an unknown and unfamiliar terrain, riddled with question marks and uncertainty. When somehow encapsulated something greater than where I was and even where I am now. When is the “not yet” of waiting. It is the place where God places us on hold – for who knows how long – and we are required only two things: trust and surrender.
Fairly recently, I was reflecting on the past two years when the Lord so gently (yet clearly) revealed to me that we would be moving and I would need to start letting go of my attachments to friends and my home. It occurred to me that I was getting that gnawing sense again of abandoning something else – social media.
I was told years ago that, in order to really “make it” as a popular or bestselling author, I needed a platform. (This is true.) So I heeded every veteran writer’s advice to join every single social media site and start building my audience. But I hated every single minute of it. I always have.
I kept it up, but it was draining. And I never felt quite right about it all. It seemed to backfire, and I was always left with little to show for my efforts.
So the Lord spoke again in this quiet holding place. He had been preparing me for the moment when I would be ready to let go of something I thought was so important, yet something so unnecessary right now. He showed me through a variety of people and circumstances that I didn’t need a huge social media following to be successful in His estimation. In fact, I saw quite clearly how it was hurting my ability to use my time prudently and to reflect deeply on the issues and subjects about which I am called to write.
I had to abandon another lofty idea of following the world’s lead in favor of the desert walk. And it hurts. It is lonely to amble through a wasteland of nothingness while everyone else follows a particular, predestined journey. I’ve questioned this. I’ve doubted it. And I have not yet completely deleted my social media presence. (It’s a slow progression.)
But the hardest aspect of waiting in any sense is when you peer behind you and wonder or perhaps even regret what you’ve abandoned. You don’t know if this is really going to pan out. But you tarry a while, still gradually moving forward step by sluggish step. It’s following a call away from the world so that God can accomplish something greater in you and through you.
That’s a tough decision. Do you believe it? Do you accept that maybe God is leading you away from the world, because He has something very deliberate and important in mind for you to accomplish that has nothing to do with what the world is seeking or following in the current milieu?
I’m still sinking my feet in the hot desert sand of time every day, not knowing how long I will vacillate between where I’ve been and what lies ahead. But the waiting itself, however agonizing it is on the heartstrings, does bear eternal fruit. And my mission, however invisible it may be for a time, must be at least to obey God’s request without doubt. I must move in this time of waiting from faith to greater faith.