Three years ago, when I left the church, I left not only my primary connection to community, but also many ministry responsibilities. These ministry responsibilities consumed much of my time for so long, I was disoriented when those responsibilities were no longer required.
When I left the church, friends said kind things like “God has BIG plans in store for you,” or “Amazing things will come your way.” If I’m honest, I expected those big and amazing things to happen. I thought surely God will reward me for my obedience to follow God’s lead out the front door of that church. Most days I was doing good to keep my head above water with course work and the mundane of life, while also giving myself plenty of space to deeply grieve the loss of my faith community. Three years feels like a long time to be in the in-between.
During this time, in what I call the wilderness, God is redefining what it means to be a follower of Jesus. Church, service, and worship have taken on new meanings. Little in my spiritual life, indeed life in general, looks like what good Christians would consider “good.” I rarely read my Bible, much less study it. My quiet time is infused throughout my days. Worship happens when I’m hiking trails or covering distance on the road. Church looks like coffee or a shared meal with dear friends. Prayer happens as I breathe, and service is ongoing as needs in the community arrise. I spend a lot of time alone with God. Our relationship is open and true, but vastly different than what it once was. Silence and darkness are more common that revelation and light.
For years, I’ve been waiting for the next to come.
What I am learning is the next is now.
I kept waiting for God to show up big, to provide a platform and purpose. “But God can only be found in this step, never the one beyond. God is never someplace else. Even God’s darkness is the shadow cast by God’s light.”
Instead of showing up big, God is showing up quiet, like a friend inviting me to have a seat next to them on the park bench or to go for a walk alongside the river.
In this, I’m learning to be content in the silence, solitude, and wait of my days. Reorientation and rest are constant companions, as I lean into wounded places of my heart and seek God for healing and wholeness. In this slowing, shalom is replacing the fear-based religion which compelled me to tirelessly serve with excellence. My reward for obedience isn’t a platform, but rather a posture; one that is bowed down, humble, and trusting and is met with grace upon grace.
In The Art of Solitude, Stephen Batchelor writes, “Solitude is not a luxury for the leisurely few. It is an inescapable dimension of being human.” This is the greater invitation; an invitation to become more human, to become increasing one with Christ, as Christ is one with God. It is an invitation to “allow the mud to settle and the water to clear,” to see “space as substance,” and presence as a profound gift that allows others and myself connect with what’s important in this world.
As a spiritual director, this is what I’m first called to be, and then do. As a doctoral student, in order to help others embrace their humanity and our Christ-reconciled death, I must be comfortable with listening in silence, noticing Spirit’s movement in stillness, and being at peace in the mysterious wait that accompanies dying, death, and grief. Poet Sadiqa de Meijer writes, “In English, death has a rare sound, and the only ordinary word that rhymes with it is breath, which is a rather lovely grouping.” In many ways, that is our daily invitation, to discover the lovely in the hard and holy of life as we meander our way through breaths unto death, into our ultimate oneness with God.
 Stephen Cottrell. Striking Out: Poems and Stories from the Camino. (London, UK: Canterbury Press Norwich, 2018) 42.
 Stephen Batchelor. The Art of Solitude. (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2020) xii.
 Diana Renner and Steven D’Souza quoting Tao Te Ching. Not Doing: The Art of Effortless Action. (London, UK: LID Publishing Limited, 2018) 120.
 Ibid., 129.
 Ibid., 136.
 Sadiqa de Meijer. 2019. “The Ebbing Language.” Poetry 2, No. 5 (September): 473.