A couple weeks ago I opened my inbox to find an inquiry to teach at a women’s conference in Canada. I was excited for a few reasons:
- New Brunswick is close and I wouldn’t have to fly.
- It would give me an opportunity to do what I love—prepare a message for a group of women. I could see the next few months filled with studying and praying and writing. Hours and hours of seeking out God’s message for these women.
- I was tired of shedding the skin of our previous life and this would be like an injection of identity again. A reminder that God still sees me and desires to use all these gifts and passions for preaching that He’s developed in me.
And so I waited. And I sent them video links and I waited. And I looked at their conference Facebook page and I waited.
A couple weeks later I received the email letting me know I hadn’t been selected, sharing with me the name of the woman who had, and telling me they’d keep me in mind for another time.
Don’t google her, I told myself. But I couldn’t help it. I typed in the name of the woman who had received the opportunity to immerse herself in these women for the weekend. She had a beautiful website and it was easy to find her video clips. I noticed her books were empowering and her training and endorsements validating.
But most of all, I took in her photograph, her clothes and her accessories and her hair. Not because I was shallow, but because she was staring back at me, fully dressed and put together. And I was sitting on the other side of the screen completely exposed and somewhat fragile.
I almost wished they had never asked, I told God. Not in this season. Not at this moment. It would have been easier to not have received an invitation than it was to receive a rejection.
For two months I’ve been stripped bare, repeatedly reminded of what we’ve left behind. I notice the busyness of the pastor’s wife and I inhale deeply, grateful that I am no longer overcome by guilt at my inability to meet the needs of everyone and myself. But I notice her relationships and lose my breath, longing for the role that automatically placed me near the heart of others.
For two months I’ve been setting old talents and projects aside, telling myself that it’s okay if what I was once good at is no longer needed. Reminding myself these abilities were the Lord’s to begin with and if He needs them to be stagnant for a time, so be it. Reminding myself there are other ways I can make this season of life meaningful.
And for two months I’ve been trying to rush rest because I secretly decided that if we could get through this season of rest and learn our lesson quickly, then we could return to the world that is comfortable and familiar. We could get redressed in an identity and feel strong and capable and needed again.
Instead we feel out of sorts. We feel humbled. We wonder if we were ever good at anything. We feel a bit forgotten by God. Or maybe that’s just me.
After the email saying thanks but no thanks, I’m tempted to only focus on perfecting my granola and jam and stop daydreaming about teaching and preaching and studying. Maybe granola and jam is all I have to offer the world at this moment.
Two months of feeling bare and how many months more?
Will I ever stop being plagued by the phrase, See what you left behind when you abandoned your life’s work thinking you’d find life?
Such a cruel, untrue accusation. So I try to silence the noise of loss and listen for an invitation into more.
And it’s then I hear God say: Welcome back to the garden, where it’s just you and Me. Where the gifts you’ve spent years unearthing don’t match the beauty of just being.
I know you want to get redressed, but the first woman put on her first clothes when shame entered the world. And I want you to be unashamed: Unashamed of your exhaustion. Unashamed of your inabilities. Unashamed that you desired more than I’ve given you. Unashamed that your need to be needed has trumped your need for Me.
And so I can learn to celebrate the rejection, for it exposed my fear of being forgotten. And as I sit in the garden of rest before the Lord, I dig in the dirt—fingernails caked with the stuff man is made of, hands stained by the stuff roots call home—and I bury my fear before him. Unashamed to admit I was addicted.
I’m bare. I’m fragile. But never have I been in the presence of such strength.