“Only God could say what this new spirit gradually forming within you will be.” - Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, SJ (“Patient Trust”)
“Arise, my friend, my beautiful one, and come!” - Song of Songs 2:10
You could say that I have been in a period of extended incubation for quite some time now, a time of growing pains that is usually more acute in the earlier years of young adulthood. I have been unsettled and uncertain, searching for who I am and who God calls me to be…where and how to serve…others to love and be loved by…a greater self-acceptance and sense of belonging—in my communities, in the Church, and in the world. It has been a season of exploring and wrestling that at times has felt endless.
Externally, I have moved every year to a new place for about the past nine years since my college graduation, often alongside a change in employment and communities. Internally, I have likewise gone through important transitions and taken significant steps to do my part to allow God’s grace to continue to mold and shape me. With each new place, relationship, and challenge, God has given me opportunities to grow and become more fully my true self—the person I am called to be. Amidst the turbulence of change and transitions, I have had much to be grateful for.
And yet, despite the gratitude I have experienced with each new or deepened grace, I have felt an underlying restlessness within me—an ache to be “further along” in life or to have finally “arrived.” I admit that part of this yearning or dissatisfaction has come from giving into the temptation to compare myself to others, particularly to peers who have reached certain markers in their young-adult lives that I still haven’t arrived at (an established career and clear sense of vocation, a significant other or spouse, a home, a family, etc.). On and off, I have spent much time asking God throughout the past decade “Why me?...What’s wrong with me?” as I’ve watched others begin to live out their and God’s dreams for them. I’ve felt like a “late bloomer” in comparison, as I continue to fail to meet societal, familial, and personal expectations of where I “should be” at this point in my life on several levels.
The more authentic source of this ache though, I feel, has been an innate, God-given desire to “become.” Something in me wants to be drawn out and awakened into greater life. I resonate with some of the most memorable lines from Rey, the female lead in the latest Star Wars film: “Something inside me has always been there. But now, it's awake. And I need help…I need someone to show me my place in all this.” For me, though, I know where my help lies and who has been the one whispering words of love and encouragement to this life within me that wants to grow. In moments of greater stillness in prayer and personal reflection—when my perfectionism and need to achieve are quieted, I can sense God stirring this desire to “become” in me. Like the line from the Song of Songs that has stayed with me for the past few weeks, I can hear God’s loving coax, “Arise, my friend, my beautiful one, and come!...Come be with me…Become who you are in my love…”
In these moments, I heave deep sighs of both peace and longing. My spirit groans within me as it seeks to respond to God’s invitations. I am moved to make changes and take steps in my life and have done so through grace. I resolve to be more patient and loving with a friend or courageously vulnerable by sharing with others or asking for what I need. I am more intentional in prayer, in being present to others, and in tending to my self-care. Usually, though, these movements are slow and incremental. Only when I look back to the person I was five or ten years ago can I see that I have grown and matured in love. Yet something is stirring at this juncture in my life that is new. God’s voice is more pronounced and, at times, even bold and emphatic. I feel that I am being called to respond in kind—to be real with God, others, and myself to a depth I haven’t experienced before.
Perhaps God is making these moves, and I hear the invitations because I’ve finally landed the job, found a great apartment and roommate, entered grad school, and am more willing to settle down (#adulting). While there may be some truth to this, I trust that God can work with and in the unique circumstances of our lives, however imperfect and unsettled. I try to give God the benefit of the doubt that it was more the inward journey of the past decade or so that prepared me for these deeper stirrings rather than finally attaining some external benchmarks. Whatever the reasons for its occurrence now, I am trying to welcome this new yearning to “become” as a long-awaited guest. Some part of me hopes that it may bring with it clearer answers to my questions about vocation. When this hope becomes an expectation, I have to remind myself in humility that I never fully know what God is up to and need to leave room for a willingness to be surprised. Vocation will come, in time. And when it does, I suspect that the restlessness and desires will only change shape or color. For, as I was reminded at a deeper level on a recent retreat, what I truly want most is God. I want more of “us,” whatever that might mean and bring with it. So, to wherever this new journey leads, Lord, help me give you my “yes.” Help me to entrust my heart and whole self to you more fully, as you beckon me towards you in new life and love.
How might God be inviting you to “become” at this time—to grow more fully into who you truly
are and are called to be?
What within you needs God’s loving encouragement to arise, be healed, or be transformed?
How can you better create space for others in your life to grow and be themselves in God?
Craig Cardiff, “Dirty Old Town”