I have had some exciting seasons of life. There have been times where I have worked until the wee hours of the morning, and have passionately written until my eyes were bloodshot. But this is not one of those seasons of life. I have been wrestling, as of late, with a very normal seasons of life. Everything about our lives from our schedule to our struggles feel predictable, and, quite honestly, uninteresting. Life is just kinda normal these days, and it has been for some time.
But today, as I was planning another week of meals and cleaning our little apartment (like I always do on Saturday mornings) I realized that in the last year of this normal kind of existence, I have had to learn a few things. The lessons are the pretty kind, they’re not the result of big life events, but made of the stuff of every day kind of obedience. They’re not ground-breaking and no book need be written on them, but they have changed me.
I’m sure I’m not the only one.
1) The faith is in the waiting. There was the summer in that dinky and drafty Chicago apartment where I sensed Him call me – in a way as close to audible as I think I’ll ever get – to follow Him to Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. The words were welcome and the obedience was sweet, but the timing was unmistakably inconvenient. It was late September, and orientation started in three days. But He asked me to trust Him, and so everything I owned I tucked inside my Jeep and everything else went home with Craigslist inquiries. I arrived at 3am the night before orientation, and as I sat in my new dorm room (literally, 2.5x the size of my entire apartment prior) I smiled a content smile: He asked me to do something risky, something uncharted, something of faith, and I had obeyed.
Other times, too, He has called me to more daring tasks – to be the first female preacher I, and most of those around me, ever knew; to take on leadership roles when I felt ill-equipped; to turn down good and convenient job offers without knowing what else He had in mind.
But life seems to have settled down, and with it the call of faith has become much less climactic. Rather than stepping out in faith as I head to another country, He asked me of the faith to go back to the same office, to the same desk, and to the same tasks again. He asks, in this season of day-to-day life, that I trust Him with my long-term hopes and fears. And in that request, I have found that doing the outrageous, spontaneous, outlandish thing of obedience does not take nearly as much faith as I once thought. Rather, faith is found, in large part, in waiting. Faith is found is patience – the long kind. Faith is made evident and is grown in seasons in which we know the promises of God for us, but know not yet how He is going to bring them about … or when.
2) Rhythms matter more, not less. Husband and I are pretty routine people. We like the schedule, we like the calendar, we like having our meals planned out like clockwork. We get up at the same time each day, we follow the steps we’ve written for ourselves, and we go to bed at the same time each day. It’s pretty predictable. After we both settled into our jobs, I quickly grew restless. What are we doing with our lives? Where do we go from here? Neither of us are in the field we would like to be in long-term, neither of us has a career path in our current jobs. Because of that, I rationed that it didn’t really matter what our routine is, because it wouldn’t be permanent. Example: we started eating a lot of meals in front of the TV, and even though we want to be a family that has dinners together at the kitchen table with good conversation, this doesn’t seem to be the season in which that is important. Make sense?
But, to my unpleasant surprise, I found that the rhythm we had unintentionally and passively developed was shaping us while we were unaware. It seems that whatever routines we develop are shaping us, for good or for ill. The way we approached meals was apathetic, and slowly grew into ingratitude. By disuse and misuse, our schedule was cultivating in us unholy habits. When the routines of life grow mundane it is our spiritual responsibility to arrange our day, our time, in such a way as to embed the gospel in our lives. When life grows languid with predictability, we have to chose, again and again, the painstaking process of deliberately choosing tasks and time that form and reform us in Christ.
3) Joy is a choice, not a right, and it comes through gratitude. Discontentment is my vice. Give me an idea scenario, even a situation that I have been hoping for, and immediately my heart sighs with discontentment. In particularly normal (read: boring) seasons of life this has been particularly true. And discontentment saps our joy. It just whittles it down to nothing. For some time, I walked around with a chip on my shoulder. I didn’t like our day-to-day life, I didn’t like where we lived, and I wasn’t experiencing joy. The ironic thing is, particularly because I wasn’t experiencing joy I felt discontent, which then led me to a less joyful existence. Go figure.
On one particularly busy and weary Saturday morning, I was grumbling about something that I had grumbled about before and it struck me: this is not likely going to change. All times I griped about it before I was just waiting for my circumstances to be different, and I realized that there was no sign of that on the horizon. And that is when I had a choice: to choose to be joyful right then, in the midst of my unchanged circumstances, or to continue being miserable.
I wish I could say I chose joy. I didn’t right then, but after having that conversation with myself three or four times I decided that it was worth it. The truth is, I didn’t know how exactly to choose joy. I didn’t know what practical steps to take, but I found that through finding things in each grumbling moment that I was thankful for was a start. And as I practiced being grateful, as I worked hard in dull moments at the office to find things that I was thankful for (even if it was for the smell of coffee that could not be dissuaded by incessant ringing of the phone) opened my heart up again to joy.
Reality is, I have had to learn and relearn these lessons. But it looks like this normal season of life is going to continue for some time, so it looks like I have a lot of time to practice.
What about you? What lessons have you taken from routine seasons of life?