Where I’ve Been & Where I’m Going (III of III)
by jen erickson
Jeremy once wrote a song about his indecisiveness. While I’ve never considered myself as having the strongest of opinions, neither have I considered myself indecisive. Give me two options, I’ll pick one (…just don’t ask me to come up with the options). That is, until these past few years. Now I feel that I am, most often, indecisive. Last spring I painted my kitchen five times until I got it the right color (for the most part). Ask me to make holiday plans with three viable options and I spend weeks trying to decide how to navigate our travels. I likely despise my indecisiveness now just as much as Jeremy despised his then. It seems I am constantly questioning my decisions, often frustrated that I must either carve my own path in this life or discern the mysterious path God has me on, with three growing lads in tow.
I often wonder, what has changed in me? When Jeremy was sick I was strong and stable, able and assured, sufficient and decisive. These months I have been hardly any of those things, which may not be obvious to you if you see the life I live. The boys and I are happy and active. We’re in community with others. We long to love and serve God and be a part of His kingdom work (and when we don’t long to, we get on our knees and pray that we would). We see and experience beauty, kinship, the grace of God. And … we are also frustrated and sad and alone. There was a weekend recently when nothing felt right: our home, our space, our commitments, not to mention our future, our past, or our here and now. Perhaps my indecisiveness is a symptom of lingering grief. It’s difficult to make decisions–large or small–when so many past decisions were out of my control. It’s difficult now to know what it is I even want, when for years Jeremy’s health dictated much of our lives.
I also once had exactly what I wanted: my role as Jeremy’s wife felt perfect for me. I admired and stood in awe of almost all he did. I wanted in on what God was doing with his life from day one. I trusted him to make wise decisions for our family. While he never took advantage of my willingness and desire to follow and support him, it wasn’t until our final few years together that both of us began to realize that my lack of opinion and my willingness to follow–though right and good in most all circumstances–probably curtailed my own ability to grow independently, or at least kept me from being more aware of what God was doing in me and with my life. And, since I married at the ripe young age of 19, I skipped out on single life pretty much all together.
In the wake of his death and the sudden way in which all of life became my own, I don’t often feel like a healthy, confident person, though I wish I did. I generally still feel like I’m free-falling and, on my worst days, flailing due to fear, frustration, sorrow, or any combination of tantrum-like emotions. Some days I mistake a cliff for actual solid ground, sometimes thinking we’ve landed somewhere only to find we haven’t quite reached the foothills. In this experience, I can not even begin to explain how much my heart yearns for a sense of ‘rightness’, for direction, for a ‘knowing’ of God’s call and His nearness, nor can I explain how much that longing alone on some days seems to cripple my heart. I struggle to pray persistently, yet I refuse to settle for anything less than God’s presence and anointing in our lives. Still, I don’t know where I want to be.
I began this three-part post quite some time ago; now the entire summer has gone by and a good portion of autumn. Two months ago, the “where I’m going” was an open field. There were days where my mind wandered to moving; would we and could we move from a home that has been mine almost my whole life, the only home the boys have known? Would it actually make our future easier to be out of the space that holds our entire past? I had days where I envisioned working–with a feeling like I ought to –even if I prefer to be home. I thought of all the ministries I could engage in, all the things I could volunteer for. So I pondered and prayed through these things, hoping that something would fall into my lap. And if nothing ‘fell into my lap’ I dreamed of all the time I would have to tackle the many projects at home that I’ve never had time for: Jeremy’s studio, which has awaited my attention for three years, his journals, his sermons, the bins of pictures from years of traveling. I envisioned being in a quiet home, at a desk, writing.
As it turned out, all of that dreaming was put to an end the final weeks of August. I was offered a position at the boys’ school working in the student health office, where I nurse middle schoolers back to health or send them home. It’s practical and fitting: I’ll be better able to provide for the boys while having their same school schedule–holidays and summers off.
Sounds good to me.
Seems like God’s provision.
Feels like a good next step.
It wasn’t until I walked through that door that I realized it closed several others, at least temporarily. It put an abrupt ending to a rather pleasant summer. Instead of enjoying the freedom of those final weeks of summer, I spent time setting up a new health office, getting to know staff, renewing my CPR certification, things of that sort. And although I acted decisively, doubt left me at moments trying to catch my breath, wondering all over again if I had made the right choice, if this will be a life-giving season for our family, or if I chose something good in the place of something else that would have been the best, had I just waited a bit longer.
But I think the fear that lingers even deeper in me is the fear that the best has already passed. At 33 years old, this ought to still be the prime of our family life. But the ship has sunk in the vast ocean, I’m sitting in a lifeboat awaiting the Rescuer to come to our aid, while doing my best to paddle and keep our hearts above water. Some days we sing and smile. Some days we fuss and cry. But every day we are just hoping for a glimpse of land or for a peace of mind that remains rock solid.
What is somewhat absurd about this rambling is that I am tangibly surrounded by numerous blessings and provisions….how is it that I could feel aimless or dissatisfied? Am I really so blind? Why can’t all the goodness sink in more deeply, informing my heart in the places where I seem to need it most? The reality that the best is yet to come sustains me fully and wholly in regards to the eternal but seems to leave me wondering and wanting in the here and now. Add to that how stubborn I’ve become–stubborn in my grief–and I’m finding that I require more chiseling and comfort than one may hope or expect.
Nevertheless, at 2:30 every day I close the door to my office and I’m done. No papers to write, no deadlines. Just a normal job and an everyday life that is filled to the brim. I trust that as I aim to provide for the boys, God will provide for me–and for us–all that we need and more than we could imagine. It may be that I battle indecisiveness and fragility for a while, cynicism even. God may have to pursue and awaken my heart to even the smallest of invitations; many things may have to drop into my lap (and my kitchen may need to be painted several times over…), but I hope and pray there is a day when decisions come more easily and my heart rests more confidently. Aedan reminded me just a few weeks ago that if we are God’s and He is with us, then we are exactly where we are supposed to be. (I’m sure glad he listens in from time to time.)
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there until they have watered the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and succeed in the thing for which I sent it. For you shall go out in joy, and be led back in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall burst into song, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress; instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle; and it shall be to the LORD for a memorial, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.” (Isaiah 55:8-13)