The low hum of the refrigerator sang an artless backup to the pitiful cacophony inside my soul. Slumped over my sewing-table-turned-desk, swollen belly pressing into the edge of it, I rested my forehead on the slick pages holding the gospel of Luke and let weary tears seep over all that red print.
If you’ll just tell me, Lord. Tell me what to do.
More humming. More wailing. More tear-stained gospel.
What am I missing? Should I read the Word more? It’s probably because I don’t pray enough. How have I been a Christian for so long and I can’t even pray the right way? I would surely know God’s plan for me, my calling, if I knew how to pray well. I should find a bible study about prayer. And I’ll start praying about praying better.
But I can’t understand, God. Why aren’t you speaking to me? I’m so willing. I will do anything you ask, if you will just please ask it. I’ll start a non-profit. I’ll go to Africa. I’ll adopt a child. I will do any hard thing in your name; just give me my assignment.
“Ma-ma?” A sleepy little whimper from the other room.
And so I heft myself up from the desk-alter in the tiny little spare room that will soon be given up for a nursery. I find my boy, with his sleep-pinked cheeks and his toothy grin, and I gather him up, blankets and all. Easing down into the familiar embrace of the brown leather rocker/recliner, the one we saved up for and bought to replace the hand-me-down red plaid we had in the first year of our marriage, I pull his little body close and breathe in the sweet scent of his baby hair. I love him so hard it hurts.
I press my toes into the worn carpet and we rock, a slow and creaky lullaby that sweetly replaces all the other noise. Sooner than my tender heart would have liked, he asks “We play?” And he climbs down and toddles off to find a puzzle or a book or some other little thing. Just let me hold you, I want to say. Just sit with me.
And I hear my own Father whisper, “Just let me hold you. Just sit with me.”
Career---from the French word carriere, literally meaning road--- denotes a path, a singular course, a one direction mode of travel towards an ultimate destination.
If only God would give us careers instead of calls. Moses wanted a map and God instead gave him a relationship; pillars of cloud and fire and omnipresence. I want to march onward by the Book and instead he invites me to dance my way down the winding path with the book in my hand. Let me handle concerns of eternity. You just come and be my daughter. But the marching! It looks important, it feels busy. A no-nonsense performance that proves my sincere adoration of the Lord, the marching makes me worthy of that daughter title. You are marching right past Me.
“So what are you?”
The words hovered around us, more accusing than questioning; waiting to be given life so that they might morph into verbal condemnation.
“I’m just me.” A hesitant answer for a bewildering question. I knew what they wanted; they wanted me to align myself with one group or the other. They wanted to know where the line was drawn in the sand of the middle school playground. There were all sorts of groups: the athletes, the girly-girls, the skater kids, the super smart ones, the kids who loved Pokémon, the kids who teased the kids who loved Pokémon, and finally, the country kids who lived outside of town and joined the FFA and knew words like castrate and artificial insemination.
I fell firmly into the latter category, no doubt, but I also identified with some of the others. And I truly thought it was all ridiculous because labels are dumb and we are all just students here and who even said we have to choose one group to align ourselves with anyway?
But those boys, they wanted answers. And the one I gave them apparently didn’t count.
Such was my experience every year. It seemed that everyone was desperate for me to define myself. Nerd or jock? Girly-girl or tomboy? City or country? Honor student or regular? Business track or agriculture? College bound or career ready?
Um, all of it? Or maybe none of it. What do you want from me?
The people-pleaser in me searched for the answer that would make them happy. I knew even at sixteen years old that trying to explain to my guidance counselor yes, I want to go to college but I also want to take shop was a fruitless argument. People need clear boundaries, not tomboy girly-girls who love algebra class just as much as mucking out barn stalls. I learned to present people with a tidy package, wrapped in a bow. Here I am, this is me, neat and contained and easily summed up.
Only that’s not me at all.
You are not easily summed up, soul. You are reckless and beautiful, refined and gentle. You are happy and sad, angry and impassioned. You are tired, strong, energetic, and weak. Reverent and ridiculous, right and wrong, truthful and disillusioned. You are you. Put together by the most skilled craftsman, created to reflect His image to all the world, and purposed to restore His image where it is absent in the world.
Career is too narrow a road to drive that big ole calling of yours down. You need the wide open highway, with plenty of shoulder space for pit stops and breakdowns, and lots of side roads to turn around on. You don’t need a map with boundaries and signs and instructions, you need the mapmaker to ride shotgun. You don’t have to march forward, avoiding sin and doing good deeds, and hope that God is convinced of your love for him. He loved you long before he knew you. You don't have to decide if you are a lay person or a minister, a business woman or a stay at home mama, this kind of a Christian or that kind. You just have to love people well. You don’t have to agonize over your calling, you just need to sit with the one who called you.