I am at a crossroads
The world outside for Huckleberry Finn is at first full of the frightening unknown and reflects his deep loneliness and isolation. Yet in throwing himself into it with the companionship of Tom Sawyer – plunging into adventures on the Mississippi to escape his pap – finding Jim on the island…freedom and selfhood come.
I am at a crossroads, and I seriously don’t know what to do. Leadership challenges seem every which way and when I think too hard about them, my head literally hurts. My friend told me she’d never seen me press my fingers to my forehead the way I did yesterday, trying to describe my sense of future work, calling, vocation, and destination for her. I’m going to try and describe some of that for you without working myself into a headache again.
For me lately, Harvard and Christian ministry feels like the widow’s home and the stiff clothes meant to “sivilize” me. I’ve lived and loved and breathed this air for the last 10 years, and I need to get out. Not because the widow is mal-intentioned – no. She is kind-hearted and loving, and she has educated me a great deal! Not because the clothes are shabby or inferior – no. They’re clean and fresh – they just don’t fit me because I’m growing!
This has all been great, and I’m not ungrateful, but this isn’t all of what I was meant for, all of who I was created to be. These 10 years have shaped me and readied me to leave – and now be the world-changer we are so keen on developing. “If not now, when?” is the question that gets under my skin more than Hillel’s other questions. “Now, now,” a deeper part of me cries out, “let’s go!” (And my husband John, who I’ve written about before, is my Tom Sawyer, always ready for mischief and adventures, secret oaths and fun.)
But am I running away from a pap? If so, who is he? If my pap is anybody real, he is probably a mistaken view of God as somebody always keeping me here and always asking me what more I have to give him. God, as he really is, is the one the widow knows, who made the kind of “good place” that “made [Huck’s] mouth water.” The God I know (but I sometimes forget to stop and look at) is the one who whispers sounds in my ear and in the wind: sounds that are not frightening in themselves but not clearly interpretable… I need to quiet myself to really listen in attentiveness.
And am I just running away from this pap or am I running towards someone or something? Yes, what is it that actively leads me away from what I’ve known and loved for a decade? I think it is this: a God-given, deeper desire to be in the world – to love it and serve it and be a part of it. I think I am looking for what I keep calling “a larger container” to hold all the dreams and hopes I have for what this world could be if we were all in it for its good and redemption, the fullness of who I am connected to the fullness of the world’s reality.
If I really leave, I’m needing to look out for my Jim on the island. Perhaps that’s John in a different form – or perhaps it’s the colleague or the organization or the company I long to partner with. I want a new kind of work in a new kind of environment – where somehow my growth, well-being, and opportunity to do significant work is satisfied and addressed. Jim, where are you? I want to look for food together and enjoy watching the stars at night. I want to do the next stage of work together. Will I play a cruel joke on you when I find you, in my immaturity? I hope not. Will we become real friends? I really, really hope so.
I’m hopeful, but I’m trying to not worry about the future and be anxious in my hopefulness. I’m eager to go, but I want to finish well what I’ve got going on here. I’m ready for more, but since I don’t know what that will be – I want to be patient and still, serene in the turbulence. God—as you really are—be my real father. Give me the strength to carry with me what I leave behind – to the next place we go together.
March 9, 2011