For much of my early adult life, I coped with stress by making changes. I would assess my situation and figure out if there was anything I could change to relieve my stress. These would be external things like change jobs, change my child’s preschool, or change my city. Making changes made me feel in control and like I had taken concrete measures to address my emotional distress. While the Serenity Prayer bids us to “change the things we can,” I didn’t pay much attention to “accept the things we cannot change” part. As I got older, I become more self-aware of this as my personal coping mechanism.
These changes were not usually done rashly but they were not always effective. And since they were external, situational aspects of my life, it didn’t require me to do the inner work required to find peace within myself. One of the most significant examples is getting a divorce to relieve the crushing depression I experienced. It didn’t work but it did give me the time and space to get treatment. I count being able to reconcile with my loving and devoted husband as evidence of my personal growth from some very dark times.
What reinforced this coping mechanism was that professionally, it served me well. Being able to assess a dysfunctional situation and determine what changes would rectify the problem was a valued skill. I became an expert problem solver and change agent. During the last 13 years of my career, I was never hired to maintain anything. Over and over, I was brought in to either create something from nothing or to completely revamp what was currently in place. If a company was in a time of transition, that was attractive to me, especially because I lacked a college degree and when companies are in chaos, their standards get, shall we say, flexible. The messier it was, the more I wanted it because I knew I could hit the home runs and prove myself quickly. I earned a reputation for this messy work and never had to look for a job. Layer on top of this my perfectionism and I finally wore myself out and left the corporate world in 2014. [See “Following Your Heart” post for more on that.]
For the past several months, I have been in a period of discernment. I never seem to quite settle down for good in my life. While I call it “restlessness,” my spiritual director thinks “responsiveness” is a better term. So, in response, I am stepping down from several roles in my life including my evangelism staff position at my church and my advisory role for Invite Welcome Connect at University of the South (Beecken Center) at the end of this month. These were not easy decisions and ones that I have checked over and over to make sure they were not reactions to stress. I still feel called to coach and speak on evangelism, help wounded seekers across the country find Christian community, and to finally create time and space to write a spiritual memoir which honestly scares me. Prayers appreciated!
I am responding to a call for peace versus perfection, to simplicity versus success. Letting go of so much of my external identity comes with grief. Jesus said whoever loses his life for my sake, will find it. I hope so because constantly proving myself is exhausting. It feels like Jesus is taking me down to bare bones which doesn’t sound very life-giving but I’m going with it.
After spending much of my life working 150% to make up for not having the right credential, giving up these positions made me rethink my identity. I now know that the only credential I have that matters is that I’m sealed by the Holy Spirit in Baptism and marked as Christ’s own forever. And no one can take that away. And I can’t change it. That’s a good thing. A very good thing.