In a way you could say that the promise of “starting over” has helped me move from:
- junior high school student to community leader
- my childhood home to college,
- Detroit to Chicagoland,
- employee to team leader,
- health care professional to graduate student,
- ACOA and religion to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ
- a single life to marriage twice,
- Chicagoland to Fort Wayne, and
- private journaling to online blogging!
Just wondering: how many of you, my gentle readers, have experienced this too? How many of us have initially and privately hoped that the simple move from one lifestyle to another, one geographical location to another, one relationship to another, one worker role to a promotion, or more would somehow be all we needed to change what is wrong or uncomfortable in our lives? The excitement, the risk to the unknown, the new adventure surely would change everything and bring true happiness! The lure, the answer to prayer, the next pursuit will be “it.” After all, once we have moved on, that person who bugs us, the issue we don’t want to face, the pain that we simply can no longer bear, the emptiness in our hearts will go also away, right? In our minds we might figure that won’t have to deal with him or her, with it anymore.
Not! The only problem with this mentality I have found, is that I take myself with me to the new destination! What I mean is that if I have not prepared my heart to let go of the past, deal with the past, and found new ways of coping with the past, I will somehow recreate the problem in the new location. Not true, you say? You are different? Are you sure?
May I share my most graphic example? I grew up in a modest blue collar home tainted by alcoholism, financial strife, divorce, abuse, and my maladaptive coping style of workaholism. Sure I had lots of friends, school and community service activities, and spending money from working but my inner life was chaotic even sad. If anyone could read my thoughts at that time I would surely be in trouble with someone, somewhere! Out of sheer determination to improve my life as a young adult and get away from my domineering mother, I set my sights on college. Within 3 months after graduation, I moved out-of-State alone to the Chicago area for my first job when I could not find one locally. I had to get away anyways. Finally I would be free from my past and able to live my life as I wanted.
It took about a year for me to realize that my problems had moved with me! My “stinking thinking,” the unhealthy people with whom I ended up associating, the social habits I once despised, and the compulsive work ethic to succeed at all costs mimicked the dysfunction of my childhood home. I walked further and further from my Catholic upbringing. I set my sights on more career achievements and prepared to enter graduate school. When my double-life and underlying feelings couldn’t catch up with my ambitions, I sought counseling to fix it. Turns out it would take a long time, a lot of money, many different avenues of recovery leading to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ to find freedom. The geographical move away from “home” did not do anything to fix anything!
There’s a simple phrase I’ve come across over the years that goes, “wherever you go, there you are.” It’s so silly yet it’s very profound. We take ourselves with us just as we are wherever we go. If we don’t change, the change in circumstances won’t change much of anything either.
Flash forward 25 years and I hope that you will find that my life today is very different then back then. The trials and tragedies during the interim years have been almost unbelievable at times. During 2003 to 2005 I was forced to start over as a single woman and completely move five times. This year I’d say that was a warm up act for the fourteen changes in sleeping locations over seventy-six days during the process of mold remediation at home! The difference between then and now, between the Detroit to Chicagoland move in 1983, was how the Lord allowed me to handle it. Only by the grace of God have I ever truly moved forward. With my life surrendered to Him and with the spiritual leadership of the Holy Spirit and my husband, there was no trauma in relocating this time; the stress was normal. There was no magical thinking; I didn’t need to win the lottery to be at peace. If the change turned out well or not, I would be o.k. and the Lord would and has provided for my needs. The Lord used each move this time to show me His love and plan for my life and the people that came along were His chosen instruments: pretty cool folks.
I have given pretty graphic examples here in uncovering the illusion of a “geographical cure.” Some of you will be able to relate to my situation and some will not. Please get the take home message written best by the God of the Bible:
28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (NIV)
Each step of the way can be useful, never wasted if we but seek first His face, His kingdom, and
2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. (NIV)
The first step is to look to the real cure for all that ails us, the One who created us.
33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (NIV)
For those that call Him Lord, He will give us no more that we can handle, the desires of our hearts, a way out when needed, and much goodness; our thoughts and desires both conform and grow in our walk with Him. The pain, the fear, the adventure of letting go will be worth the journey if we but commit ourselves to Him. The move to follow Him will bring a spiritual cure of sorts that will exceed any that we might create or imagine on our own in this life and the next! The cure, the answer to our prayers, may also relate less to our jobs, our families and friends, our places of residence, our ministries, than the condition of our hearts. Our minds become sanctified; our hearts become free.
A fun outcome for me with the move to Fort Wayne to marry Steve was learning to kayak at age 47. This would have been emotionally painful if not terrifying just a few years earlier! And yet few years after relocating and opening my heart to this new love, I became physically stronger than I’d ever been and progressed from a tandem plastic, pedal-driven Hobie Oasis to a solo introductory racing Stellar SR surf ski! Wow Jesus. Talk about restoring the years the locusts have eaten! (Joel 2:25)
Yeah, kayaking in my own vessel may be on hold for awhile while I am recovering from Lyme Disease, but so what. It will be waiting for me, Lord willing, when the time is right on the most perfect of sunny days. In the meantime, I’ll paddle just along leisurely in the back of our ocean-style, tandem 24 foot outrigger canoe with a hot kayak racer/husband forging the rough waters in the front! Woweeee indeed!
So if you’re “starting over,” moving on, beginning a new chapter in your life, I encourage you to double check to see if there is any relational editing or heart check needed in the chapter, in the place that you are in right now. I gotta tell ya that if you don’t, the past could come back to bite you in the shorts when you least expect it. I don’t want that for you or for me. Take a spiritual inventory. Come to Christ and ask Him to search your heart and lead you into all righteousness, cleansed and free. (Psalm 139:23-24) If you do, true joy awaits you. I’m sure of this.