I’m prone to restlessness. It often lurks in the back corners of my mind, interrupting me throughout the day. My years in school, complete with multiple moves over a ten-year period, trained me to enjoy transition. Without the periodic anxiety and thrill of moving, I get restless, especially in the fall as I watch others go back to school and jump into new beginnings. It’s a bit of my old life rearing its head to nip my feet as I again drive the same roads between church and home.
So I try to appease it. I plan fun vacations and weekend getaways to new places. I take up new hobbies (this summer it was riding my new bike). I create a stack of new books to read. I look to meet new people. I move the furniture in my house. I purge belongings. I drive a new route between church and home.
All of these activities are fine and healthy. In the past, they’ve worked well for me. But now I’m approaching four years at the same place with no move in sight—the longest amount of time I’ve stayed still since I moved away from my parent’s house at 18. I’ve watched staff and congregation members come and go. And I’m still here. And I’m not appeased.
Let me say this: I have no plans to move or change my job. My husband and I are incredibly blessed to have calls near one another that we both enjoy. We love our city. Our son goes to a great school and we are so grateful for our daycare provider. We are content, fortunate and thankful.
So why am I restless?
The restlessness haunts me. Then this week I picked up Eugene Peterson’s The Pastor and re-read it. I remembered him talking about his restless years—those six years (three years into his first call) he calls The Badland Years. He became my pastor this week as I read his process of moving from restlessness to finding life. And I realized something.
I’m in the middle of a refining fire.
Sometimes restlessness is a very good indicator of the need for change in one’s life. But for me, it’s a sign of my need to grow, to reach a new spiritual maturity—to let go. It’s easy to plan more vacations and to dream about the next move. It’s much harder to settle into daily life—the same routines, annoyances, chores, and arguments day after day—and appreciate its rhythms. For so many years I’ve missed my daily life because I’ve always been thinking about the next change. Now I’m challenged to find contentment where I am. I’m finding it difficult.
I feel the fire, the painful change, and the pruning of my soul. Restlessness is a cruel tempter. Adrenaline is quickly addictive. Yet now I need to work on acceptance, patience, and trusting the Holy Spirit. I want to simply be with people. I need to embrace prayer and ritual. It’s time to let the fire consume me, for out of its ashes will come new life.