I wonder what would have become of me had Will not died and had I not married Steven and converted to Orthodoxy. I imagine a version of myself out there in the world. She lives overseas, where she teaches English at an international school and is studying her fourth language. She has a group of expat friends she hangs with, mostly other teachers, but she also makes friends with the locals. She speaks to them in their own language and eats their food and adopts some of their holidays. She has traveled to over twenty different countries and has the photo albums and souvenirs to prove it. Her bookshelves are full of books she’s collected from all over the world. She has tasted wine, but rarely drinks it. She’s still Nazarene, after all. She is active in the church, taking leadership roles at times, and taking part in ministries to the community. Every year she comes home in the summer to spend time with her parents and brother and his family. Some years she makes it for Christmas. Perhaps she is married and has a few children; perhaps not.
I cannot undo most of the choices I’ve made. Some things I have no control over at all. I’m literally writing this story, reliving it, while at the same time living in it. For someone who once thought she was called to be a missionary, maybe my story looks like a failure to some people. For the daughter of missionaries, the daughter of the great Knox family that ended up mired in grief and unfaithfulness and divorce, sometimes it feels like all the old dreams are nothing but broken pieces now. I’ve lived in Nashville for 16 years now, but I feel like I’ve traveled to the moon and back with the spiritual and emotional journeys I’ve been on. I’m tired of disappointing people. I’m tired of disappointing myself.
I need redemption. I thought I had it. I thought I’d worked through everything. I thought I was healed. But here I am, writing about every place and every one who made me me, and there’s a great sadness. Maybe I’m trying to find a person I used to be, or trying to be someone I haven’t been before. Which kind of life is a life best lived?
A friend once told me not to worry about what God wants me to do with my life, but who He wants me to be. Maybe this is how I start. Start over.
One prayer. One day at a time. And the days that I can’t pray, I can read poetry, and that will have to be enough.
as I who came back from the same confusion
learned to pray.
I returned to paint upon the altars
those old holy forms,
but they shone differently,
fierce in their beauty.
So now my prayer is this:
You, my own deep soul,
trust me. I will not betray you.
My blood is alive with many voices
telling me I am made of longing.
What mystery breaks over me now?
In it shadow I come to life.
For the first time I am alone with you –
you, my power to feel.
– Rainer Maria Rilke, Book of Hours