Author: Jess Cohen
Confession: I’ve written and rewritten this post about a dozen times… and I’m still late in sending it over to Sarah. Sometimes words flow easily and other times I struggle to put what I think is a coherent sentence together. After the last proverbial crumbling of the paper I began to wonder if my unsettled words were maybe a reflection of an unsettled spirit. And I think the answer back to me was a resounding YES!
Have you ever found yourself in a season where you just feel unsettled? A season where nothing seems to fit quite right and I’m not just talking about clothes… For me, this season looks like standing in the tension between what is and what I hope will be. A few months ago I started a new job that has potential for great career opportunities but the realities of my day are that I do very little work that is challenging or exciting to me. As a Young Life leader I recently graduated a group of girls that were very near and dear to me, both literally and figuratively. They would show up unannounced to my home often. We’d share coffee and meals together. And then they graduated and I started over with a new group of freshmen. And sometimes you (and by you, I mean me) forget that it takes time to earn friendships and trust and acceptance in their world. Those relationships, while good, are not what I’d hope they would be and what I’m certain they will become. As a single 30-something year old woman I desire a husband and family but I live in the unsettling reality that those things are not yet true of my life. And as a friend to many who do have spouses and kids I live with this desire for deep friendships and time with the people that I love but also whose time is consumed with different priorities. There is a great tension in the reality of what is and the expectation and hope for what will be.
So how do we live well in the tension? How do we accept that reality of what is while also continuing to pray and hope and work towards what will be? How do we have peace in the midst of the unsettled seasons? Oh how I wish I could spout off a quick list of to-do items that would answer all of those questions! But here is what the Lord has been to gracious to show me in this season –
- Be present. The tension kind of sucks most of the time. Sorry, just being real. It’s hard to wait. It’s hard to want more than what is right in front of you. It’s hard not knowing how long you will have to wait or struggle. But be present. Be present in the suffering and the inconvenience and the waiting. When I choose to be present I actually learn a whole lot more about what desires the Lord has placed in my heart and how He is tenderly speaking to me in this season. Remember that part about Him knowing each of us better than we know ourselves?… well that also means He cares for and encourages us better than anyone else can, too.
- Be honest. It’s ok to feel whatever it is you feel. It might be hurt or frustration or sadness or confusion or even joy and thankfulness and hopefulness. All valid. And all important to let yourself feel the feels. We don’t have to let our emotions dictate our actions but I’ve learned that if we don’t honor those emotions and be honest about them we are actually more likely to react to emotions rather than respond in healthy and appropriate ways to the situations we face.
- Be brave. It’s hard to live in the tension. It’s hard to be present when the season doesn’t feel like the mountaintop. It’s hard to accept what is when we desire different things. But you are stronger than you probably know. Take courage, dear heart (as C.S. Lewis says) and keep moving forward. Choose each day to do what you can to move towards the things you hope will be.
- Be hopeful. All those things I hope will be… well, He desires those same things for me, too. He just also knows the best way to receive and achieve those things. He knows me better than I even know myself. He created me. He gave me those desires. He wants good things for me.
- Be vulnerable. Let other people into your story. We are not meant to do this alone. Yes, we have the Lord but even He lives in a perfect community – Father, Son, Holy Spirit – and I think we are designed to live the same. We need people to come around us, to walk alongside us, to reach out a hand when we are stuck, to encourage us when we are struggling, to remind us of who God is and who we are when we aren’t able to see it for ourselves.
And one final thought. Seasons are just that – seasons. And we need them each to develop and grow us into the women God has ultimately created us to be!
Jessica Cohen is honored to be a guest contributor for The Well! She is an epidemiologist (fancy word for someone who studies how diseases move among and affect groups of people) by training and aspiring chef in her free time. She also volunteers with Gwinnett Central Young Life leading high school students and mentors young women through her church, Grace Midtown.