Waking Up Somewhere Else
I felt the warm sun on my forehead peeping out from under the duvet. I heard parrots chirping and Spanish speaking voices just outside my window. I smiled in the last moments of my dreaming before opening my eyes and fully committing to waking up. When I opened my eyes, I was confused and disappointed. For some reason my sleeping self thought I would be waking up in a hotel room in Puerto Rico instead of my apartment in Pasadena.
Maybe it’s because of all the moving I did growing up or maybe everyone has this experience but I am often confused about where I am when I wake up. Sometimes my sleeping mind forgets what bedroom I’m in or even what year it is and prepares my senses for a completely different environment than the one I am actually waking up in. I have woken up thinking I am in a different country, thinking I am 12 years old, thinking I am late for school, thinking I am still married. It’s always jarring, sometimes humorously so, but this morning it was just disappointing.
My sleeping self was remembering a time not that long ago when I thought I had everything I could ever want – my dream job with opportunities to travel and make an impact, a great community of friends, a spouse who made me laugh and made me think, an itty bitty apartment but right in the middle of one of my favorite cities, and lots of exciting potential opportunities on the horizon. I thought this was what adulthood would always feel like – working hard to pursue dreams and fulfilling them.
Five years later, I am not in the same place. My life looks very different and my experience of adulthood feels different too. Right now adulthood looks like a lot of persistence and grit and a lot of far-off-in-the-distance hope to keep pursuing dreams. It has been a lot of laying down expectations for self-fulfillment in exchange for just trying to be faithful to the next step. I haven’t quit working hard but the results from those efforts feel much harder won – if anything comes of it at all. It has been deeply confusing in a way that has shaken up my understanding of God’s goodness and faithfulness. It’s not that I have questioned whether God is good or faithful as much as my understanding of what those attributes really look like and feel like is changing.
I walked into church yesterday morning still feeling the dissonance between the life my sleeping self wanted to wake up to and the reality I’m actually in. I stood in the pew trying to center myself and be present. One of my favorite authors Kathleen Norris writes about being faithful to the actions of worship in community even when your emotions are not there. She describes it as leaning on the faith of others when one’s own faith is not enough. I fully expected this to be one of those mornings until the worship leader announced we would be learning a new song this morning. The first verse made my breath catch in my throat:
I’m so confused
I know I heard you loud and clear
So, I followed through
Somehow I ended up here
I don’t wanna think
I may never understand
That my broken heart is a part of your plan
When I try to pray
All I’ve got is hurt and these four words
Thy will be done
Thy will be done
Thy will be done
“Thy will be done.” Words we traditionally pray every Sunday as part of the Lord’s Prayer. Words I learned to say before I even really understood what a will is. Words I can recite without thinking – part of my liturgical muscle memory. Suddenly just saying those words demanded a level of trust that I wasn’t prepared to give.
What is God’s will? It’s a question we ask in sermons, books, seminars, and in quiet reflection. It’s a question I have asked myself as long as I can remember but yesterday the questions running through my mind were the scary ones I rarely admit to asking: Is it God’s will that I live alone for the rest of my life? Is it God’s will that I spend the majority of my waking hours in a job that leaves me spent and unfulfilled?
I don’t have answers to these questions but on Sunday morning instead of searching for another solution, trying harder, and pursuing more, I let the questions move from the closed off corners of my heart to rest out in my open hands. I repeated the words I have recited since I was three years old and asked for the grace to hope that the answers will be good. Even if not necessarily what I think I want.
The challenge is the same every morning. Whether everything is going the way I want it to or I am struggling for change. Every morning when I open my eyes to whatever my current reality is, the words are always the same – thy will be done.