Have you ever been in a season of life where you feel like you might have lost sight of who you are? It’s not really an age specific dilemma; graduating high-schoolers can experience this as they have lived all their school years being guided and directed, responding to the spoken and unspoken expectations of parents, teachers, friends and society. Once they graduate they have to answer the age old question, “What do you want to be when you grow up, now that you’re grown up?” Good grief, how would an 18-year old know the answer to that question?
Newlyweds sometimes feel this way for a while as they transition from the role of single person to spouse. It’s a wonderful time but one that takes a great deal of hard work and a need to “know yourself.”
Young mothers often find themselves lost in survival mode, trying to keep up with the minute by minute demands of babies, toddlers, pre-schoolers, grade-schoolers, a job, a house, a husband…not to mention the expectations of parents, in-laws, friends, bosses, and co-workers. The list is never-ending and exhausting. Middle-aged moms can lose themselves in the shuffle of life too. Often going back to work full-time and watching, as one by one, the children they’ve nurtured for years, begin to graduate and leave the nest. Now these moms are asking themselves, “What do I want to do when I grow up?”
Even the very mature can experience an identity crisis as the independence, mobility and freedom they’ve enjoyed for the entirety of their lives gradually changes due to increasing physical limitations or as the role of caregiver to their spouse ends. They don’t know what to do with the empty days ahead. It’s a universal dilemma that can be overwhelming at times.
As a Christian woman it can even get more complicated as I try to resolve my calling to live for Christ and to care for the needs of others and not “lose myself” in the process. Can I really do all this and not get lost in the shuffle? Is it an “either/or” or a “both/and” prospect? Jesus’s words in Mark 8:34-35 can be a little scary.
“Jesus then told the crowd and the disciples to come closer, and he said: If any of you want to be my followers, you must forget about yourself. You must take up your cross and follow me. If you want to save your life, you will destroy it. But if you give up your life for me and for the good news, you will save it.”
I have loved being a wife and a mother. I remember saying, as I entered each new stage of my children’s lives, “Oh this is my favorite stage.” I’m still saying that today with a 17 and a 23 year old! I will continue to love being a wife and a mother even though part of that role is changing. I also loved my full time job working in ministry. I hope to do that again someday and in the meantime I will continue to volunteer and lead a bible study for women. My husband and I have gone through some very lean years financially and emotionally with the death of our 6 ½ year-old-daughter. We’ve had many highs and just as many lows but the one thing that has remained constant is the fact that our lives are always changing. Isn’t that ironic? I know I’m stating the obvious. The good times never last forever but neither do the bad times.
“Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning.” Psalm 30:5.
After re-locating across the country last year, leaving a full-time job that I loved, selling, buying and decorating a house, getting my high school junior daughter settled in to a new school and church, helping my husband in ministry, trying to make new friends, and healing physically and emotionally, I’m finally able to take a deep breath and ask, “what’s next” and “who am I?” My daughter will graduate high school this year and go off to college to continue her own life adventure, and rightfully so, but what do I do now?
As I was reflecting on all the changes we’ve experienced over the years and contemplating the upcoming change, I was a bit surprised that this question didn’t make me fearful or depressed. I was actually kind of excited. My response was surprising to me because I usually dislike change and I’m not a risk-taker. Of course I’m married to a risk-taker and I’ve spent most of my life learning to adapt. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m a good adapter and I make sure I have fun in the process, but it takes a pretty significant physical and emotional toll. Recently I have decided to approach life with a “go with the flow” attitude. I am not defined by what happens to me; the mistakes I’ve made or even my successes. I have given myself and my life to God. I am God’s child and He delights in me in the midst of the flow of all my mistakes and successes.
“Don’t be discouraged or grow weak from fear! The Lord your God wins victory after victory and is always with you. He celebrates and sings because of you, and He will refresh your life with His love.”
He knows me. He created me. He knows things about me that I don’t even know about myself. The closer I get to God, the more of “myself” I “find”. I live my life in an environment that is always changing. It’s inevitable. The key is to trust the One who journeys with me and learn to enjoy the wild ride through the various seasons of life. I’ve survived cancer and other serious health issues, the death of a child, numerous moves around the country, disappointment in ministry and all the other “normal” things that we as people unwittingly sign up for when we are born into the human race. I am not defined by these things, but I have been refined by them. I have endured times of crippling grief when I felt God’s presence so closely; I never doubted His love for me. There have been other times of betrayal and sickness that I wondered where He was. All seasons have great value because they have the potential to reveal to us a precious, hidden truth about who God is and can unveil a secret treasure buried deep within us.
“I will give you hidden treasures, riches stored in secret places so that you may know that I am the Lord, the God of Israel, who summons you by name.” Isaiah 45:3
“See how very much our Father loves us, for He calls us His children, and that is what we are! “ I John 3:1
My purpose in all these seasons is to bring glory to God in how I live my life and to fully enjoy my relationship with Him. I am God’s child and I can choose to trust the love He has for me or I can reject it. I can embrace the good and the bad, trusting in the only One who can bring good from the bad. Choosing to trust God brings tremendous peace even in the worst of times. The other choice leaves me feeling alone and uncertain. I am now being purposeful not to “sweat the seasons of life.” I can trust God to show me the path and bring me safely through to my journey’s end, even when the way gets really bumpy. He has brought me through before and He will again. I must take the time, in all the seasons of life, to dig deeper to discover new things about God, to find out more about how He has designed me, and finally, to “go with the flow” as I strive to bring a smile to His face. I am on a life-long adventure that is being orchestrated by the One who created me and loves me unconditionally. I desire to joyfully embrace all He has for me and I don’t want to miss anything. I wait in hope and with great expectation for this next year.
“So our hope is in the Lord. He is our help, our shield to protect us.We rejoice in Him, because we trust His holy name. Lord, show your love to us as we put our hope in You.” Psalm 33:20-22
My resolution this year is to “ebb and flow” in all the seasons, glorifying God, and enjoying every minute as I “find myself” in the joyous shuffle of life.
Happy New Year!