A little over a year ago, I wrote the following post entitled, “On Not Buying Business Cards.” And it was an appropriate step, at the time. I found myself following a dream, seemingly for the first time: I’d write and I’d speak, I told the world around me. I’d embrace the New Reality. I’d be the primary caregiver for my son, and somehow, somewhere along the way, I’d finally, once and for all, learn how to be. So I renamed the blog “be, mama. be” in an effort to learn how to rest and be in the present moment: I liked the figure of repetition within the name itself, perhaps believing that with mere wordy return the main message would begin to seep in.
And while I had an overall idea of the encompassing journey ahead, I didn’t count on the bumps in the road: I didn’t count on the loneliness that would ensue. I didn’t think about the fact that it would take time to start over in a whole new vocation, that I wouldn’t be hired on the spot just because I declared it so. I didn’t imagine the hurt, the loss, the anger and the bitterness that came with transitioning out of the world of ministry. I didn’t dream of the desert.
Because sometimes you find yourself in a desert, even if you don’t realize that’s where you’ve put up tent. You realize you’re parched and you yearn for answers, but you find that you’re still too exhausted to even pursue a drink. Because when you’re in the desert, all you can do is receive – but oftentimes there’s not a burgeoning population around you to offer you a trickle of their canteen, like you’ve see in the cartoons. So you take off your sunglasses, and you and open your eyes wide, wider still, squinting against the accusing sun. You try to observe and absorb the Beauty of barrenness around you – the prickles of the cactus and the perfect periwinkle blue of the sky and the endless, sun-soaked landscape. But you’re just not there yet. You’re still sitting in the desert, and it just feels really hot and really dry and really, really hopelessly, forever.
And that’s okay.
Maybe, had I seen a psychologist, he would have deemed it depression. We would have talked through the pain, and I would have chugged down a Happy Pill or two every morning. Or maybe, had I seen a spiritual director, she would have called it just another Dark Night of the Soul. I would have likened my situation to Mother Teresa, but I wouldn’t have liked shelling out $75 every month, because truthfully, I’d want to want God. And I just wasn’t feeling it, because where was He in the midst of the anger and the sadness, the hurt and the bitterness? Where was He when I stopped being the one to call, when I didn’t receive phone calls in return?
Because maybe it was just a transition. And maybe with transitions comes loss, and it’s a loss that we have to sit in and with, between and before. In the barren desert, we have to lean into the stages of grief: we feel denial for our pain and isolation overwhelms (1). Anger rears its ugly head, again and again and again (2). We make bargains with ourselves, with the “if only’s” my new form of communication for what I could and should have done (3). And then we’re sad. We’ve always prided ourselves on being a really good friend, so we never expected friendships to only last for a season. We thought when we communicated Call me, I can’t call you that they’d call. We shed tears and we mourn the loss, not necessarily of people, but of this past season of our lives, of all it represented (4). But then somehow, somewhere along the way, between central Oregon and the Sierra Nevadas, acceptance arrived (5). We began to drink again, we began to feel filled. We felt the weight slowly lift itself from our shoulders, and we sensed an emergence of peace. We entered into New Life, all over again.
We began to journey out of the desert.
So I bought business cards – because it was finally time. Because I found insides ready, in a kind of, mostly, sorta type of way. 2013 was the year and time to let my heart heal and hurt, to sit in the pain and slowly begin to put my finger on my real identity, the identity that doesn’t involve my vocation, that isn’t determined by the amount of money I bring to the table every month. For my identity is peace and joy, and my identity is celebration with childlike glee. And this I’m now ready and willing and eager to share with the world around me, as a writer, as a speaker, as a musician.
This I’m ready to lean into.
What about you? Have you ever experienced the desert, and what, at the heart of it all, is your identity?