Taking the Loss and Finding Joy
Over a year ago, while a friend and I sat in a little Mexican restaurant sipping margaritas and binging on chips and guacamole, I shared with her that I felt like God was preparing me for some transition. I explained that I didn’t know where God was leading me or what He was leading me to, but I strongly felt that it was going to happen in the near future. I told her that it was always like this with me: God allows me to feel the imminence of change. What I didn’t realize, though, was how different this change was going to be. I should have suspected something was different because the feeling of transition came on so strongly and seemingly out of nowhere. I couldn’t shake it, and it began to consume me.
All these months later, I realize the profundity of that conversation. This has been the absolute worst year of my leadership career. The successes I’m used to realizing have eluded me. I have lost faith and trust in people I’ve relied on, and others have lost faith and trust in me. I’ve dropped the ball on priorities, and I’ve let myself and my team down. I have been terribly unsatisfied, unhappy, and unfulfilled. But I am so grateful for it all!
I’ve spent a year in a state of melancholy I’ve never before experienced. I’ve had to confront my own fallibility, egotism, and perfectionism. I have failed at more things I started and neglected to follow through on things I know matter and should be valued. At one point, I strongly considered seeking therapy because the depression I started to feel began to manifest itself in ways that felt totally unlike me: complaining, blaming others, quick to anger, extended sadness, disinterest, etc. Moreover, the things that outsiders have considered successes, I’ve begun to see as less than rosy.
So how is it possible that I can be grateful? Well, it’s because I realized, quite recently, that this is exactly what I asked God to do in my life. Now, in truth, I never asked to fail at work. I never asked to experience turmoil and strife in a profession that I am so passionate about, but what I did ask for was a stronger faith in God. Little by little, for a year, God has allowed the stuff I’ve trusted in to fall apart. He’s allowed me to experience hurts and frustrations and revelations that have rocked me to my core. He’s allowed me to see the impermanence of everything I’ve valued. It’s impossible, I’m learning, to strengthen my faith in God if I continue to put my trust in everything but God. In answering this prayer, He’s revealing my idolatry. The plans I’ve been lauded for making and implementing and monitoring, for instance, He’s reduced to meaningless pieces of paper. It’s like He’s Celie from The Color Purple and I’m Mister:
Jokes about movie curses aside, I really do believe that this year has been one about faith building. I’ve always thought of transition for me as moving on to something bigger and better with regard to career, but as my journey in Christ is growing, I’m learning that if I’m not toiling for His glory, it doesn’t really matter. If I’m not putting my trust in Him, it doesn’t really matter. If I can’t see Him, it doesn’t really matter.
You know, sometimes we pray prayers out of routine. It’s why we can shout “Amen” in a prayer circle before a preacher finishes the sentence. We are used to hearing it the same way every time, but when we open our hearts to God and open our Bible to His Word, those same lines stir us in ways they never did. All of a sudden, “Lord, let me decrease that You may increase” becomes both literally and figuratively manifested in our daily interactions. For me, I think I needed the physical crumbling to really see Him. God has taken up residence in my heart so that I can feel the weight of His love and sacrifice and blessing. He has stirred my nest, and I can no longer rest easy in what I’ve become used to in life. Real joy can only be found through Him. And I need to put Him first in all I do.
So in the most courageous way possible, I admit that I’ve failed. Yes, my data may suffer at school. Yes, I need to rebuild a viable team. Yes, I have to put a lot of work into bettering our service to our school community. But when I thought I was doing well at that, I was really losing. And now that I’m tuned in to Him, I will ultimately succeed. It may not be success by human standards, but thank God I’m learning to value His standards more!