A Generous Grace

ideas on practical spirituality and loving each other

Off-season: When you’re not where you wanted to be, when you wanted to be there

Why does it seem like everyone else my age is promoted, and I’m stuck in Gruntwork Land?

I should be married by now.

I am so. Tired. Of the little kid season. Why did I quit my job?

He started at the same time as I did. How did he get so much further ahead?

Who goes back to school at my age?

I had no idea w hat I gave up when I got married.

What was I thinking?

Everyone else has a baby.

Why in the world did I major in that? I jeopardized my entire career.

 

Ever feel like your season of life seems…off?

Maybe it feels like you’re on the wrong side of a three-legged race. Something’s dragging. You’re lurching. Everyone else seems to fluidly gallop ahead, while you’re stuck with a mouthful of turf.

This is not the life I pictured.

One of my dearest friends started seminary about a year and a half and ago. She’s in her mid-sixties, with lovely silver hair and an infectious grin. They call her a “non-traditional student.” But you know what? She’s killer at it. She’s riveted by loving God with all her mind through concepts like soteriology and eschatology. But more than once, she’s admitted to me she wishes she’d done it decades earlier. Couldn’t she have given away to others more of what she’s learning? And wow—she would have done things so differently if she knew then what she comprehends now about God.

But as I look at the sprawling, intricate tapestry of her life—I’m beginning to glimpse why God needed her right there, right now. For such a time as this.

As she loves to quote to me, God determined allotted periods and the boundaries of [our] dwelling place (Acts 17:26). What I read from that: God determined your best when, and your best where.

Last week, I read over again about the clockwork-like timing of Jesus’ death; the three specific feasts to coinciding perfectly that specific year with His death and resurrection (Passover, the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and the Feast of Firstfruits—when Jesus, the first fruits of God’s harvest, rose from the dead). When Jesus was hung on the cross, at the time of morning sacrifice, thousands of fathers were leading their lambs to the slaughter in Jerusalem. He died at the time of the evening sacrifice. And when blood and water gushed from His chest, blood and water were sluicing down the channels within the Temple. When I compare God’s immaculate timing to the theories about the star over Jesus’ birthplace—all of which were set in place at the time of Creation, millennia before—well. Precise doesn’t even begin to cut it.

Jeanette Walls, in her excellent memoir The Glass Castle, wrote of a conversation with her dying, atheist father:

If every action in the universe that we thought was random actually conformed to a rational pattern, Dad said, that implied the existence of a divine creator, and he was beginning to rethink his atheistic creed. “But if the physics — the quantum physics — suggests that God exists, I’m more than willing to entertain the notion.”[1]

If there is not one rogue atom in the universe, then perhaps my season isn’t as off as I thought.

God, it seems, is not so preoccupied with my productivity as I am. I so easily, so frequently, confuse my value with my usefulness. 

I am so easily intoxicated and blurred in vision by the poison of comparison, envy, and discontent.

I so easily tire of loving well, and of faithfulness without visible success.

Of waiting.

Perhaps you’re reading this in a place where your season has resulted from someone committing evil against you, or someone who simply has not loved you well. I still find you in remarkable company with Joseph: You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. I’ve witnessed this with my friend “Sarah”, whose two years of harrowing childhood abuse have been slowly restored by God to help, in part, uncountable others navigate their own trauma.

In God’s economy, evil never gets the last word.

Or maybe this finds you beneath a sucking undertow of regret, overwhelmed with choices you wish you would have made. Even then, I find that—as my mom is fond of saying—you cannot deal God a card He can’t play. Or as Proverbs declares it, Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand. Tim Keller’s words, posted last week, moved me:

Worry is not believing God will get it right, and bitterness is believing God got it wrong.

Clearly there are some times in our lives when our off-kiltered seasons are all the more reason to be strong and courageous; to actively seek change and more appropriate alignment with our gifts, passions, and longings—or far more, where God longs to send us. I suppose my encouragement, to you and to myself, is to search out that fulfillment not in flailing fear, but in the peace that blooms from faith in God’s impeccable purposes for us.

Jen Wilkin has said, Our limits point us to worship our limitless God. Perhaps your limits—like an enslaved Joseph; an exiled, orphaned Esther; an unwed, pregnant Mary—are holding you precisely, tenderly where God can maximize His honor and your flourishing.

 

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[1] Walls, Jeannette. The Glass Castle: A Memoir. New York: Scribner (2006), p. 265.

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2 Comments

  1. This writeup has spoken to my heart. It’s God breathed to speak to hearts, resonates a sense of surrender. I surrender & I know that what ever I’m going through is for the Glory of God because I trust him. Has you quoted Timothy Keller – yes God is never wrong, but I step into Joseph anointing. And I’m out of that prison.

    • You’re right, Kenneth; I was reminded this week that “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” We’re not confined by any season when He’s writing the playbook. So thankful for this.

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