“So what’s next for you?”
It’s the question that I’ve been asked frequently this past year. I have family members and friends who are writing books, launching blogs, buying homes, starting their family, getting married, receiving promotions, starting new careers, moving across country, going on mission trips, founding ministries, beginning grad school, and starting their own businesses. Quite frankly, I’m not doing any of these things, and it’s tempting for me to think that I’m not accomplishing anything or actively working toward a goal.
But if I were to sum it up, the past two years have been about settling and putting down roots. You see, in the span of just five months, from January-May 2013, I experienced tremendous life change. My sister and dearest friend got married, Jason and I graduated from Dallas Theological Seminary, we both started new jobs, we moved from Dallas to Grapevine, and many close friends moved away after graduating. I spent most of 2013 overwhelmed, grieving the loss of community, and trying to find my way in a world where everything was new.
And so rather unconsciously, much of 2014 was just about me adjusting to new roles and surroundings, and learning what life looks like when you’re no longer stuck in overdrive, constantly fatigued, and spiritually depleted.
Tired of being asked, “So what’s next for you?” I made the intentional decision around New Year’s to really sit with this question in 2015. Seven months into the year, here’s what I’ve found: 2015 isn’t about me accomplishing anything external, something that can be tangibly measured or checked off of a list. In fact, 2015 isn’t about me at all. It’s about God and me learning to be more attentive to God’s presence.
I know it sounds cliché, but bear with me. The beautiful truth about attentiveness to God is that it’s not something that I can achieve, earn, or somehow force God to grant me. Instead, it’s about surrender to God and recognition of who he is.
Ruth Haley Barton defines attentiveness as the “the capacity to recognize and respond to the presence and the activity of God—both in the ordinary moments and in the larger decisions of our lives.” In other words, attentiveness is simply a posture that opens you up to more readily pay attention to God and his work so that if and when God speaks, you’re more apt to hear it and obey.
And even this posture of attentiveness is a gift of God, something that neither you nor I can earn. But we do get the opportunity to cooperate with the Holy Spirit as he works to transform us in the image of Christ.
For me, I’ve found that practicing attentiveness in this season of life looks like stopping to pray for someone as soon as I speak with him or her. Because otherwise I might forget, and when I say, “I’ll pray for you,” I want to actually pray for you with intentionality and specificity. I’m also writing more cards and sending encouragement emails more frequently. I’m seeing more needs around me than ever before as I pray to see God at work, and so I want to be quick to affirm others, offer a word of encouragement, and share God’s truth with them.
I’m also going through a Bible reading plan that highlights the women of the Bible. Instead of objectively studying the text and asking, “What is the application for my life?” or “What does this text mean today?” I’m just reading it to encounter God (as the preface suggests). I’m highlighting every time a name of God is mentioned. I’m underlining every action attributed to God. I’m noting in the margins the characteristics of God. And then I’m spending time in prayer, rereading those attributes of God and praising him for who he is. In so doing, I’m learning more about my good Creator, his sovereign will, and his trustworthy ways.
And with just 5 months left in the year, my prayer continues to be, “God, I don’t want to go somewhere and then ask you to bless it. I want to be where you are already working. Give my eyes and ears that are attentive to your presence, and the courage and faith to be obedient to your will.”