In Henri Nouwen’s book called Seeds of Hope, he writes that “displacements threaten us and give us feelings of being lost or left alone.” He goes on to say the following:
“Displacement is not primarily something to do or to accomplish, but something to recognize. In and through this recognition a conversion can take place, a conversion from involuntary displacement leading to resentment, bitterness, resignation, and apathy, to voluntary displacement that can become an expression of discipleship [. . .] To follow Jesus, therefore, means first and foremost to discover in our daily lives God’s unique vocation for us [. . .] our concern for a career constantly tends to make us deaf to our vocation [. . .] God calls everyone who is listening” (144-148).
And I am listening.
It is perhaps normal to wrap purpose up in accomplishment, to wrap acceptance in a profession up in calling, but a person’s worth and calling ought to be separate from all the doings, otherwise when the doings are done, there is nothing left in the identity we have so carefully created for ourselves. Is God in the midst of all that process? Is not at least part of working and the creating of identity led by more than just human inclination and desire? Of course—mixed in with His will, my will, the will of others, this crazy combination of spiritual and carnal. And unraveling all those threads, well . . . who could ever?
But the truth is that when you think you know, at least in part, who you are and what role you currently play in the world, you want to be the one to decide when and how that role should be redefined. There have been many times in my life when that decision was taken out of my hands. I was younger, and I grieved, but I adapted. I found a new path forward. A new open door. Why this latest displacement hurts so much, I am not sure, except that because I am much older maybe it feels like there is no other door to walk through now. Maybe it feels that a forced retirement underscores that I am past usefulness more so than a voluntary exit from a job would have felt, even just one or two years later.
It has been a painful few months, having lost my job. The grieving and reorienting have provided rather a topsy-turvy emotional ride. Regarding Nouwen’s “displacement leading to resentment, bitterness, resignation, and apathy,” well, I am somewhere between bitterness and resignation, I think. My desire is to skip apathy and move right into seeing this as freedom—a freedom to zero in on vocation, stripped of career obligations. Can my involuntary displacement become voluntary as it pertains to my following Christ? I hope so, but I am not quite there yet. That will perhaps be the determinant of whether displacement is a blessing or a curse.
I had cataract surgery done a week and a half ago. I chickened out last year–something about a knife near the eyes bit! But I was getting desperate, so I did not read any contraindications and just went for it. I had not been able to drive at night for over 2 years, and even daily activities were becoming a strain. I probably should have asked more questions, though, because rather than a piece of cake, this “routine” surgery was more like liver and onions–more uncomfortable than I thought it would be.
I am very chemically sensitive, so having gotten through the procedure with fairly minor and endurable hiccups, the worst part became the reaction to the steroid drops which are needed for speedy healing. This is a five-week process, and I have quite some time to go, but I hope the worst is over.
That was the bad and the ugly. The good part is that somebody turned on the lights! Whites are whiter and colors are brighter, not to mention that everything has distinct edges and not fuzzy, ever-changing ones. The green in the traffic light is . . . well, green green! It is almost like a different color. It is not preferred by me to undergo any surgery, but given the positive change in my sight, I think it was worth it!
My eyes are blue blue again. Haven’t been like this since forever! You don’t think about it because the discoloration and hardening happens slowly over time. Even my own photographic work is brighter and more colorful. And I have discovered I am a much better photographer than I thought. 🙂
We don’t become aware of the hardening process that alters so much of what we see because it happens bit by bit, year by year. And only when it cannot be ignored any longer do we even recognize it is something to be dealt with. I am thinking that is kind of like what happens with our hearts. If betrayals and loss, disappointments and disillusionment build up, then over time the hardening becomes something to radically deal with. It interferes with our ability to prosper and see life and mission clearly. But it starts small, and it builds layer upon layer. I am not sure how to prevent that from destroying my joy, but my desire is that I would become aware of the hurts that bind and settle down into my spirit.
May I hold lightly to pain and hold tightly to renewal is my prayer.
Oh, Lord of the broken and heartsick,
of the world weary and tumult tossed,
Oh, Lord of the fractured and failing,
of the wounded and flailing,
have mercy on us.
May our beliefs align with Your truths,
and may our weakness not hinder Your kingdom work
here in this battleground
between earth and heaven,
between the cross and the crown.
Oh, Lord of the blind and beleaguered,
the willing but wanting,
have mercy on us here below.
May our hearts break for the living lost
and our hands be quick to holy tasks
here on this hallowed ground
between world and wonder,
between sacrifice and song.
Oh, Lord, have mercy on us here below we pray.
These witchy trees, bare and lifeless, cold and leafless:
One might wonder where life has gone and if all hope is gone,
receded into the dark earth. But
in one moment, that gifted second,
a nub of green sprouts, a speck of promise appears, and the sleeper rises,
stretches to the sky. Renewal happens once again—
from death to life.
That these dormant praises in me would rise again, unchained.
That these sleeping sermons once more would reach my mouth that I may speak of Your wonder,
Walking in shadows, occasional whispers of light remind me I am
inadequate, but on the path to home.
The yearning, the longing, keeps doubt in check—
somehow, hoping that
someday what we partly know will be known in whole—
The here seems material, the then so far off; and this shadowed world, so full of souls and stains would break even the strongest, if not for the
the glimpses of the intangible, leading us from discomfort to discovery
I don’t want to be naïve again, speech peppered with Praise the Lord’s and God Bless You’s, and other Christian slang, as if by filling in the blanks I could sanctify the moment.
I meant well.
There are elements I wish I could reclaim—the idea that God would intervene if I could muster enough faith, the idea that God would love me more if I kept more of His rules.
Simple. Kind of.
I would love to get back to the uncomplicated worship where I knew God was big, powerful, and good, and that somehow my weak words meant something in His kingdom economy, that his gifts freely given actually changed things—changed lives.
But things don’t always turn out as expected. The right key doesn’t always fit in the lock; and though I still believe, my belief is tangled and mangled with shaky hopes and sanctified suspicion.
The strength of will is not always armor enough when facing a cosmic battle. And inspiration and revelation once cavalierly received have slowed to a trickle in the murkiness of time, trouble,
Cataracts of soul have dulled even further the glass darkly explanations, and my longing for more drives me to my knees.
Can I have the wonder back? Can I feel again past the numbness of mind and heart? Oh, Lamb, Oh Lover, Oh Rescuer, save me. Let me feel again what it means to be connected to eternity with these frail threads of confidence and leave the doubt of this dirty life behind.
Bend down, O LORD, and hear my prayer;
answer me, for I need your help.
2 Protect me, for I am devoted to you.
Save me, for I serve you and trust you.
You are my God.
3 Be merciful to me, O Lord,
for I am calling on you constantly.
4 Give me happiness, O Lord,
for I give myself to you.
5 O Lord, you are so good, so ready to forgive,
so full of unfailing love for all who ask for your help.
6 Listen closely to my prayer, O LORD;
hear my urgent cry.
7 I will call to you whenever I’m in trouble,
and you will answer me.
Surrender feels like failure.
It feels depressing, like giving up.
There is a darkness to it, a weight to it—the unwilling outmanned, outmaneuvered, surrounded, and pressed to defeat.
Surrender feels like exhaustion.
It feels compressing, like yielding up the last breathless bits of me.
And yet You call me to this laying down of arms jazz
in exchange for Your loving arms.
And I find that surrender to You is not as much giving up as over—not as much failing as falling into a tender pull,
deference to one more wise and able, after all my best ideas have faltered and failed,
after all my excuses have dried in my mouth,
after all my tears have washed away nothing.
It is the unclenching of a fist, the unmasking of a façade.
It is the baring of a war-torn will, the stripping of all that chokes and hinders.
And I find that surrender to You is not as much like crying “uncle,”
but more like a hallelujah.
John 15:4-7 (ESV)
“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”
“Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.”
Many things you fear come to pass, but
most don’t; and
since you never know which will or won’t, it makes more sense to fear none. But
my Pollyanna is more my Puddleglum, and
my optimism quotient is tempered by what is truly possible on this broken planet; so
how does a glass half empty gal have faith without feeling like it is more about wishful thinking and cooked up certainty?
How to live in the real world with real faith when real is often reeling with the now and the what could be? Yet will I praise Him.
“Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” ~Matthew 6:34