Profile: Twenty-three year-old post-grad. Unemployed. Single. Broke.
Special Skills: Writing cover letters, finishing ice cream cartons, giving self-pep talks
Work Experience: Not enough
After applying for jobs for a few months, I feel like smashing the keys some days. Every day is wide open, ready to be filled, and without the structure of school to frame me, I am oozing out, formless. I’ve forgotten what Mondays are supposed to feel like as each day blurs into the next.
I yearn for certainty. People who are waiting for something know the ache of ambivalence. We are laden within a cloud, waiting for the pressure that will drag us out of the ether and onto the earth, ready to splash ourselves into the world.
I list the things I’m waiting for when I walk home (the days I do leave my apartment). A job. Marriage. The next time I see my best friends. The next step for my life’s path. Heck, I’m still waiting for that suitcase the Greyhound bus company lost on my last trip, probably getting dusty in some warehouse in Texas. Pine, pray, wait, weep, wash and repeat.
Restlessness sets in as little changes. The If onlys become a constant hum in my head as I start to wonder if it is, in fact, possible to get too much sleep. My legs twitch, needing to walk, move somewhere. Eyes scanning the same streaming headlines, I fight the urge to snap the television off, or at least numb myself to the weight of everything I see. I hate this lethargy, the sluggish pace of my days, but I can’t seem to get out.
Waiting is the slow swoop of a pendulum. You anticipate outcomes, desire destinations, but your movement is halted from reaching that endpoint, slamming against some wall of resistant force. After so many rejection letters and unrequited affections and the seemingly unchanged status of the world, it’s hard to believe that trying again and again is worth it. Does it become even harder to believe that I am worth it…
I’ve been reading 2 Corinthians lately, and this passage stood out to me:
Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, as some do, letters of recommendation to you, or from you? You yourselves are our letter of recommendation, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all. And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.
Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. 2 Cor. 3:1-6
I keep rationalizing the gaps in my life, the things I’m waiting for, weighing flaws versus qualifications…but I’ve missed the point. I’ve been trying to outline my worth and sum up 23 years of life experience, but I never thought about the idea that I’m actually a recommendation letter for someone else. My life can be read out–not to highlight my accomplishments, but rather to remind others of God’s goodness. All I am, all He has placed in me, points to the most amazing Being in the universe who saw fit to gift me specific experiences and jobs and relationships to reflect both His character and His work in me. That’s mind-boggling. Instead of scrambling to gather crumbs until I feel like enough of a fully-realized person, I have already been made sufficient.
My hands are tired of typing, tired of carving monuments to my worth. Yet my thought process rambles on: So, okay, I’m confident, sufficient, God’s recommendation letter and all (sounds like the spiritual version of the “I’m a Strong, Independent Woman speech”). What do I do while I’m waiting for the other things that still matter?
Lesson 1: I am not entitled to the outcomes I want. I am not smarter, prettier, more accomplished, or even want it more than anyone else. When I throw off that illusion, my identity is no longer tied to goal posts. I stop believing I am bereft because I don’t have a boyfriend. I stop fixating on my lack of job. I stop seeing every rejection as a crucifixion of my character, trusting the faithfulness of Jesus, who endured being crucified so I wouldn’t have to agonize over my self-worth. He has already made me worthy–that’s a blood-born reality, not a Hallmark pitch.
Lesson 2: Trust means little unless you’re actually in a place where it feels irrational. When trust is tested, it is either reinforced…or it dissipates. There are times where I think it would be so much easier if I could just take control over all the gaps and bridge them through sheer force of will. God is taking his dear sweet time, so why wait? But if I truly believe in a God who knows more than I do, then I cannot measure the breadth of His knowledge. He knew before my zygote days who I would become, so how arrogant is it for me to say I know better? God isn’t a human parent–He doesn’t err in judgment; He does not have mixed motives. He doesn’t get insecure when he’s not praised enough. He is the transcendent God, Creator of the Universe, and if He wants me to wait minutes or years for His best for me, I can trust that during the toughest days.
Last Lesson: Stop waiting. No, not for everything–it’s not time to throw the dreams out to the raccoons (yes, I’m still scarred by the ones that used to haunt our trash bins). But I realized that I spend a disproportionate amount of time waiting for things that feel so far away. I wait for the Big Turning Points, the Events that will shift my life monumentally, yet I am missing out on the incremental motions that stretch me, change me day by day. I may still wait for the big fixed points, but God is telling me to stop waiting and embrace what is right in front of me.
I have writing projects I could be working on (have you started that book yet, Joanna?). All those books from those conferences I haven’t read yet? Yeah, my brain has been starving for the extra stimulation. There are people in my neighborhood I could be reaching out to if I took the time to brainstorm how. Tired of reading headlines about racial division in my country? There are steps I can take to educate myself and move into circles where I can make a difference.
I also have so many new people in my life who God has been prodding me to open up to and commit to loving, but my eyes have always been focused on a point past their shoulders that I don’t see them. God has already given me a wealth of love, and I don’t want to squander it because I’m too busy fixating on what or who I don’t have. If there is more flexible space allotted to my days right now, then it should be shared and used.
It’s a discipline, trusting God with the daily and the unknown stretching beyond it, but I am discovering so much peace even as I battle my anxiety and push my feet forward. I start writing more regularly and focusing on it as a craft again because I have time, more time than ever, to exercise my mind. I help raise other people’s kids. I join in on conversations on justice. I spend time with my friends and family and get to know the people in my church. I finish that piano piece from last summer. I play a video game or two (I got really good at Uncharted). I cook. I dance. I take long walks alone. I talk to God more often, like I used to when I was a teenager and had faith on fire. My waiting is neither passive nor naive; I am finding the life waiting underneath the illusion of inertia.
A few months ago, I spoke on a panel on the topic of dating, intimacy, and desire. The big question was, “What are you waiting for?” It was weird for me to envision myself on a panel at first (isn’t it usually for people with three published books and years-worth of ministry experience?), but as I started responding to questions from the crowd, I realized: I’m not the same person. It was a slow-burning cognizance; I’m not the freshman girl fixated on finding The One or depressed because I think God’s holding out on me. This past year of waiting has shifted something in me, turned my rabid hand-wresting into open palms, fingers loose. By practicing how to find abundance in my life apart from my checklist of unfulfilled desires, my heart becomes permeable. I receive more easily, and I give of myself more eagerly. The grueling days of yearning come, and I still allow myself to cry when they do–I’m allowed to grieve for yearnings untouched; but I am no longer incarcerated in my waiting.
I may feel like shivery air concentrating, waiting for solid form, but God gives ground to vapor, as a recent worship song reminds me. My desires may not take the form I expect, or coalesce in the time I want, but I trust God to do in my life what is needed–not only what is wanted. My life will undulate in the wavelength of my Savior, and I will not be weighted by doubt.