Last month, I gathered with a group of women communicators for a five-day retreat in northern Idaho. We’d been together over Zoom calls for several months by that point, but found ourselves itchy for a little face-to-face interaction.
At one point over the extended weekend, we were broken into smaller groups and instructed to bring to our group a problem we needed to solve. Whether personal or professional, each one of us then had an hour dedicated to solving our problem. After all, as the old adage goes, two heads are better than one – or in our case, four or five heads most definitely proved better than one.
When it came time for me to bring my problem to the group, I laid it all out there:
I’m feeling stuck. Now that my book’s been out in the world for a handful of months, I don’t know what to do next. Do I just keep doing what I’m doing, writing and speaking and setting up conversational events around issues of justice, race and privilege? Or is there something else in store for me, like a new job with an Episcopal Church? Or a new book proposal? Or finally pursuing my doctorate?
I spent fifteen minutes simultaneously laying out and dreaming of possibilities for my supposed problem, before the group spent another fifteen minutes asking clarifying questions. After that point, though, it was time for me to shut up and just listen.
It was time for me to receive their guidance and direction.
I remember waiting with baited breath, certain that my future would involve something new and bright and sparkly, something certain to set my feet on the path of vocational greatness.
But instead, the other women said this:
Just keep doing what you’re doing.
Honestly, I think I balked at them in the moment, mouth agape, eyes wide, ears stunned at the simplicity of their insight. But it was also exactly what I needed to hear, both then and now.
Perhaps like you, I cling to shiny things. I’m more prone to Easter Jesus than to his Good Friday self. I collect new ideas like they’re going out of style, so much so that it can be hard to actually do anything with all the good ideas. And when it comes to a job, for example, I can always believe the grass will be greener on the other side. Why hunker down with doing the same old thing when I can pursue something new, when there might be something better on the other side?
After all, my propensity isn’t to stay put—nor is it to just keep doing what I’m doing, believing that God is in the details and that this slow, hard, steady work matters.
But sometimes the invitation to just stay put is the holiest invitation of all.
Maybe for you it means staying put in a relationship, even though you’re beginning to see the realities of one another’s messy, human selves. Maybe it means not moving to the bigger, brighter, shinier apartment half a mile up the street. Maybe it means continuing to lay down roots at your local church instead of searching for a new one.
I don’t know what it is for you, but I do know there’s power in staying.
As for me, yesterday I did what I should have done a long time ago: I finally crossed out and deleted and threw away the myriad of reminders on my desk and in my calendar and on my laptop begging me to apply for a couple of local church jobs.
Now is not the time.
Next summer might be the time. Five years down the road might be the time. My fiftieth birthday might be the time.
But for now, the invitation is to just keep on doing what I’m doing …and really, there’s no “just” in that sentence, for this is the holiest invitation of all.
[Image Credit: Public Domain via Pixabay]
Renee Swope says
I love this so much Cara!! Staying… isn’t very shiny (most of the time) but it is often the most sacred and Holy invitation from the One who is always willing to stay. With us.
ps. I like moving on to shiny, new, next things as well. I needed these words of yours. 🙂
This was exactly what I needed to read in this season of my life, which might seem stagnant, but is still holy. I’m always looking for the next “sparkly” adventure, when that often just makes me more anxious and unsettled. Be still and know… thank you for your words!