My writing has been a little dry lately, a little distant, I fear. Now that the weather has turned, now that spring is here, I’m impatient to be outdoors instead of inside. I’m craving to paint and draw instead of type. Also, I’ve been a little reluctant to let you in. Were I to be honest, the initial theme of this Lent for me was rescue.
I entered Lent desperate.
Nearly a year had passed since graduation yet I was still dispassionate in my job search, feeling without direction. Usually I know what I want, figure out quickly where I’m going to get it and leap. With full faith God will catch me. When I leap, I commit. But this time, I’ve been unable to leap.
I have avoided almost anyone who might ask me questions about my future, about what I was doing or wanted, because I couldn’t give a definitive answer. Not for lack of trying. I’ve tried out many things throughout these months but nothing has stuck, nothing has turned into a career. I have been unable and unwilling to commit.
Echoing in my thoughts have been words I heard my senior year of undergrad, “It’s challenging for people in the Humanities to find meaningful occupation.” Occupation they find meaningful. I have been frustrated by this fact. Frustrated by my lagging motivation. Frustrated by my indecision and indifference. Frustrated at my situation in which I’ve felt stuck and stranded.
Along with this, eating has been a continual battle. My former obesity was in part the result of an eating disorder (gluttony is an eating disorder just as starvation and purging are). For the first time in over two years, I’ve been struggling with binging and regularly overeating. Gaining back some weight has not been half as devastating as gaining back this struggle. Here in the Midwest, I feel like an alcoholic trying to go sober surrounded by other alcoholics pushing drinks at me.
It has been incredibly hard not to be bitter and angry with these groceries stores brimming with junk food, in restaurants with bland but calorie rich entrees, surrounded by a large majority of people who do not care for their bodies. It has been frustrating to not be able to live in my own apartment, buying my own food. I’ve wanted so badly to be able to control all of the food surrounding me, to eat and be offered nothing but a mediterranean-ish diet: healthy fats, lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, all meat deliciously seasoned. No starches, but instead lots of light or whole grain carbs.
Most of all, I’ve wanted to feel in control of my appetite again, from my cravings to the food around me. As I’ve been struggling with my eating, I’ve been struggling with my body. I’ve been feeling much larger and much less attractive than I actually am. I had been avoiding my reflection.
I had an insatiable craving for connection with God that my prayers and devotions were not satisfying. I felt as lost and indecisive in my devotions as I felt in my life. I felt far from God and far from my friends.
I approached God on Ash Wednesday crying out like David in distress.
Over the last four weeks, God hasn’t ridden in like a knight in shining armor, sweeping me up in his arms and carrying me far from my hardships. (Not that I was expecting him to). During this time God has changed me as much as my circumstances. Starting with my Lenten tasks.
I committed to fast from sweets Monday – Saturday. This commitment has broadened, I’ve added to it intentionality in my eating throughout the entire week. Seeking to intentionally eat less. Intentionally satisfying my craving for a more delicious, interesting and gratifying diet. (Though I crave sweets, I don’t crave “comfort food”. I don’t crave the typical Midwestern diet of fried foods and lots of saturated fats. It’s just easy to eat badly here, to eat heavy here). I’ve stumbled a lot. I’ve broken my fast many times. But I’m eating less than I was. I’m eating better than I was. I’ve relearned restrained.
I committed to read through the New Testament. Instead I’m following a Lenten list of daily scripture readings from the Old Testament, Psalms, Gospels and Epistles. Through these robust devotions I’ve finally found satiety. Through them God has spoken into my circumstances as well as drawn me closer to his heart.
For the first time since returning from Christa and Jon’s in late December, I’ve found peace here. I’ve come to view these last months differently. It was disillusioning to realize that I’ll never really fit into my friends’ lives here. It’s been painful realizing how much my friendship exists on the fringes. It’s hard not to feel awkward, out of place, inconsequential. But I’ve begun to realize that we all need what we have together: a relationship of retreat. Our friendships are isolate in part because they’re so intimate.
Though I don’t spend as much time with my friends as I might like to, I’m able to see them much more than I could living in New York City. Instead of cramping our time together into a few days, I’ve been able to devote days, weekends, nearly weeks to individual friends. Logan finally has had the opportunity to gradually share his city and his life with me through our frequent visits. I know more of Grand Rapids now than I did during the four years I went to college there.
My perspective of these seemingly directionless months, professionally, has changed. God has impressed on me the importance (necessity? for me) of choosing work that I find meaningful, that brings me in conversation with lots of people. My best friend Julie said to me yesterday, “You have great conversations. That’s who you are, what you do, and it has to be your job whether you’re a writer or working in ministry or a professor.”
Looking back I see all the valuable conversations with strangers, old friends, new friends and family I’ve had during these homeless months because of the freedom and spontaneity of my life. It is a result of the flexibility of my schedule that writing is not something I just talk about doing but is what I’m actually doing. Meanwhile, God has also been opening up other paths from this opportunity with InterVarsity to the company I’m now doing promotional events for part-time.
What I have realized is that all these months, that have felt so barren, have been in the process of slowly budding. Just as Lent is named after spring, this Lent is a season as richly filled with fecundity and renewal. My cry of rescue has been turning into a song of praise as the grass under my feet turns green.