Tim and I have been in an intense season of transition since we met and started dating. A few months after our first date, I moved out of my house and into a safe house for women. Six months after that, I needed to move again. Six months after that, Tim and I were married. Two weeks after that, Tim lost his job. For the last three months, we have lived in a constant state of unknowing. As Tim applies for jobs all over the country, it has become increasingly clear to both of us that I have been burning the wick from too many ends, and have reached a level of physical, spiritual, emotional, and psychological burnout that is not healthy for our marriage, the people with whom I work, or the future of our little family (Just to clarify: I am NOT pregnant. I can’t wait to be, but I am not right now!). While I had hoped to continue working in the jail and for our church for years to come, it has become increasingly clear that this is currently not sustainable or healthy for me or us.
So I have six weeks left in jail, at least for now and in a professional capacity. I will probably cry every time I am in jail for the next six weeks, and for several weeks afterwards. The only thing I have ever been proud of quitting is smoking, so this is not going to be an easy transition for me. It also comes in the midst of so many other potential transitions for Tim and I as a couple. In the days following my decision to resign from ministry leadership in jail, Tim was offered a freelance job as well as two very promising job interviews. I was offered the opportunity to increase my contract counseling client load. God continues to provide.
During a season in which I would REALLY like some clarity, I am reminded of the words written by Frederick Buechner in one of his memoirs. I believe it was Telling the Truth, but it could have also been The Sacred Journey. In his older age, Buechner admits to praying for clarity for most of his life, especially in times of uncertainty. One day he experiences a catharsis in his prayer life, and asks God to give him what he needs more than clarity, which is trust. That prayer has stuck with me for the last three or four years. What would it look like for me to experience trust instead of a persistent and desperate wish for clarity and answers?
I think it would look like living with open hands as opposed to clenched fists. Do you know how spider monkeys are caught in the wild? Poachers and hunters put out baskets with fruit in them, which will inevitably draw the attention of the tiny monkeys. The spider monkey can’t resist the treat, so it reaches in to grab the fruit, only to realize that it cannot remove its hand from the container while still gripping the fruit. The monkey is faced with a common dilemma: Let the prize fruit go and escape to freedom, or clench the fruit tightly and be caught and imprisoned as a result.
How often do I refuse to live with the big question mark because I just can’t let go of the thing I *think* I need in the moment? How ignorant am I when I don’t see that the fleeting things I cling to so tightly – comfort, consistency, familiarity – are actually the things that are keeping me from living a full life?
This week I challenge myself to embrace the big, fat question mark. I don’t know what the next few days, weeks, months, or years will bring (really, do any of us?) but I hope I am able to face them with open hands and a trusting heart, which will free me up to experience all that the unknown has to offer.