“You are in this time of the interim~Author, poet, priest, John O’Donohue
where everything seems withheld.
The path you took to get here has washed out;
the way forward is still concealed from you.
You cannot lay claim to anything;
In this place of dusk, your eyes are blurred;
And there is no mirror?”
I’ve been in this waiting place for a while now. Being very thoroughly unraveled and knit back together. The knitting feels loose and the threads frayed.
I’m still waiting, but—if I’m being honest—I’m a little paralyzed. I’m fairly sure that it’s time to start moving my feet but, as a chronic over-thinker, I’m hesitant to pick a direction. I’m afraid of getting it wrong. I’m afraid of falling.
Like a toddler taking its first steps, I know it’s going to be clumsy. I will stagger and most likely stumble—tripped up by the smallest obstacles: a wrinkle in the rug, an unseen toy on the path. But toddlers persist don’t they? Once they have that taste of walking freedom, it isn’t long before they’re running with an unwarranted measure of confidence.
Can I take my cues from a baby? Those little people have absolute faith and trust in the adults around them to provide both a helping hand and the encouragement required to keep them on their feet, to keep getting back up. A baby never takes its first steps and thinks, “…but what if I fall?”
So why do I?
I know I haven’t always been this way. In the past, I have taken many courageous steps in my life; I have tried new things, I have pushed myself out of my comfort zone. I have tasted both failure and success, knowing that neither would be the end of me; that both outcomes provide opportunities to grow.
So, why is this time in my life different? What has changed in me that has rendered me unable to move forward?
Recently, in an effort to get unstuck—or at least to better understand why I feel so profoundly stuck—I was re-listening to an episode of one of my favourite podcasts, The Next Right Thing, by Emily P. Freeman.
In Episode 67 – Wait Now Go, she relates the story of watching a squirrel travel the same path day after day. Each time, its route involves the same flying leap through the air, frantically grasping at a faraway branch with great fanfare and little finesse, but always righting itself and happily continuing on.
She says, “It occurred to me that this is either the exact same squirrel or it’s what all the squirrels do in that particular spot; what looks to me like a near miss is actually routine.
What seems to be a miscalculation is a regular part of the plan.
Progress looked sloppy and not well thought out. But it didn’t have to be because the squirrel made that jump every single day.
Maybe that sloppy jump was not the result of a poor decision. Maybe it was simply the only way across.”
She continues, “I want my leaps to be thoughtful, measured, and well-planned. Sometimes that works out, but if I wait for that as the only clue that it’s time to move, I may be waiting [longer than I need to].
Sometimes when I think I’m waiting on God, he’s actually waiting on me.”
Yes, ideally, I would like my steps to be thoughtful, measured and well-planned. But the reality is that my first tentative steps out of this place where I’ve stubbornly dug in my heels will likely be lacking in grace and may very well miss their mark. On the other hand, I simply can’t afford to linger here any longer. It’s starting to take a toll on my mental and physical health.
Continuing to stay in this place, despite knowing clearly that it’s time to move isn’t without its consequences.
Author and researcher Brené Brown writes, “Unused creativity isn’t benign; it metastasizes. It becomes grief, rage, judgment, sorrow and shame.”
Is it a coincidence that her metaphor is cancer-related? I don’t know. But I do know that in the months I have been avoiding writing and my blog, I have experienced a tidal wave of emotion not unlike the ones she describes.
There is no way across this ever-growing chasm other than a messy, sloppy, flying leap.
Songwriter, Andrew Peterson, in his book Adorning the Dark: thoughts on community, calling and the mystery of making, writes, “If you wait until the conditions are perfect, you’ll never write a thing…It’s always a matter of the will. The songs won’t create themselves, and neither will the books, the recipes, the blue-prints, or the gardens.”
It’s a sentiment that echoes Ecclesiastes 11:4, “Farmers who wait for perfect weather never plant. If they watch every cloud, they never harvest.”
I’m no farmer, but this has certainly proven itself true in my life, as I’ve made excuse after excuse as to why I can’t write:
- I don’t have my own space,
- My desk is a mess,
- I don’t have adequate time,
- I don’t have anything unique to say,
- I compare myself to others who are doing the things, writing the words, and I fall short time and again.
- I spend time praying and preparing, but when God says, “Move”—I don’t.
Instead, in a stubborn act of the will, I stand there at the precipice, looking across at a distance that seems impossible; an obstacle that appears insurmountable.
I keep waiting for some lightning bolt to drop from the sky and declare that my wait is over and point in the direction I should go. Hoping that God would miraculously provide a pillar of cloud by day and a column of fire by night like he did for the Israelites as they wandered the desert. “Follow me, this way.”
I keep waiting for ideal circumstances, for a nicely paved path with navigational lights. Even I know it’s ridiculous. Never in all my years has that been my experience as I’ve stumbled my way through all the twists and turns of this life. I don’t know why I think that the way out of this current desert will be any different.
In that same podcast episode I referred to earlier, Emily concludes, “Maybe you find yourself standing on the edge of a branch, gazing over at the next tree, looking for the solid path. If the time to move has come, may you have the courage to do the next right thing no matter how sloppy or unsure.
As you trip and limp your way into your next thing, resist the urge to carry shame, anger, or fear into your future. You’re not going to need that for this journey. And remember just because the move was sloppy doesn’t mean the time was wrong.”
Are you also standing at some precipice? Daunted by what looks like an impossible distance? With no concrete route laid out for you? Please know that you are not alone.
With almost a year of recovery behind me, I know it’s time to move: to take one tentative step and then another. And maybe a flying leap or two.
In these months of silence on the blog, I have been working behind the scenes to make a few changes. And some of those will be coming in the next few weeks.
I’m so grateful for the way you have stuck with me, providing encouragement and prayer as I’ve both languished and wrestled in this desert.
I’ll leave you with one final thought by Andrew Peterson,
“Sometimes you’ve done all the planting you need to do,
and it’s time to start weeding the garden.”
Ever grateful for grace,