A few months ago I stood in the sanctuary of our church on Good Friday and held a rock in my hand on which I had scrawled the word, “security.” In my adult life, I have found it consistently difficult to live amidst uncertainty, but I don’t know what in that particular moment compelled me to pray to let go in that holy season of Lent of my preoccupation with security.
But I did. And the journey forth from that point has been anything but smooth.
In March I was offered a very good tenure-track job at an elite Christian institution–a dream job on paper–but one I ended up turning down because the social services in the Midwest couldn’t accommodate my daughter with special needs, there’d be no job for my husband there, and I couldn’t imagine leaving behind my church ministry for a full time academic job. Then in the following months as we began to look for houses in New Jersey, we lost a bid on a particularly promising house. When our offer was finally accepted on another, the negotiation proved so arduous that the deal looked to be off any second. Even now as we are poised to close on the house, the date has been so far shifted back due to repairs that we find ourselves with a month and a half gap in housing, with a special needs baby and a slew of nurses in tow!
As it looked less and less likely that we’d settle with the sellers on this house, my usually dogged, meticulous husband became strangely calm. At first I mistook his stoicism for resignation, fearing him despondent, assuming he’d given up. Perhaps he had given up in a way, but as he described his feelings I realized he’d found solace in either outcome–he wasn’t complacent but rather his perspective had been remarkably altered by our circumstances. He’d given up on the ideal of the house, but in so doing he’d found a certain measure of security.
A week or so later, knowing we had very little money for his birthday presents this year, I looked at him with tears in my eyes and told him that I’d discovered that a house would be lovely, but he and Lucia are my real home.
Facing a few months of being a nomad is relatively moderate when we are seeing some of the greatest refugee crises unfold around the world. In fact, just a few prior, I preached on the trite act of tidying up amidst such forced evacuations. But I also have rather wanted to shake God for so dramatically “answering” my prayer these past few months. What do you want me to learn here, Lord, I find myself puzzling. Why must it all be such a struggle, I wonder, exasperated.
And then I wonder how I would have arrived at these conclusions, this notion of home, without wandering a bit in the wilderness, and I realize that I, like my husband, am also dogged and obstinate. Sure, I am deeply intellectual, thought-filled, and intricate, yet, even I could not think myself through these insecurities, but rather had to ultimately feel my way to faith. In the poverty of my thoughts, my own excruciating inability to provide for myself and my family I have found, perhaps, the greatest provisions–the gifts of family that God has so graciously given. I have found in God not comfort but a depth of security that though practically confounding is deeply needed. I am learning, I think, how to struggle less and live a bit more, to hold life’s riches close to and let the rest fall away.
I am learning, I think, to live by faith.