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
Thanks for sharing this Karissa. I understand how easy it is to judge oneself against one’s expectations and the expectations of others.
I agree with your friend. The words of a Jesuit writer, Anthony De Mello, come to mind, “Change yourself and the world changes”. He reminds me to wake up to what’s really behind those judgments about where I should be and what I should be doing; that, in becoming aware, I see much of it (if not all) is simply programing. I could go on and on (as you know I can). I think you would like De Mello.
As for converting, I could argue that you simply changed denominations 😉 Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant – any of those not Christian? Well, I wouldn’t ask certain protestants that, but you know what I mean. I’m not saying it isn’t like changing religions – Orthodox Christianity is a totally different world (and a beautiful one from what I’ve seen and heard). You found something in Orthodoxy that you couldn’t find in the Nazarene church. There’s a reason for the different voices within Christianity (and I would go so far as to include the voices of other religions as well). We are all so different and therefore hear God in just as many different ways. God spoke to you through the Orthodox Church. Does it matter you had to convert? Maybe being unwilling to “convert” on some level can keep us from encountering God. I’ve taken some strange paths in my life and have found God where I least expected. I’d hate to think where I’d be if I hadn’t.
YOU were the friend that told me that!!! 🙂 (I am assuming that you are “my” Colin – my friend from college, and not just some random Colin out there in the blogosphere. Can’t tell for sure from your blog, but I think it’s you.)
Oh – and how did I not know you have a blog?
I know. I should have left the winking face. I have to admit I was tempted for a second to play like I didn’t know the “Colin” to whom you were referring.
As for the blog, it’s rather new and I neglect it so much. I’m trying to spend more time with it.
HA! I skimmed some of your posts, will come back to read in more depth later. I will try to post some comments, although I’m still no theologian. I’m very interested in your journey . . . I remember you talking about Judaism a little.
I know you probably hate FB, but you need to put links to your posts there to generate some conversation! (Says the blogger who does so and still rarely gets much “conversation” on here. Duh)
Well…there are family members who have access to that account whom I believe are better off not knowing where I am spiritually. It would cause them more stress than it would me.
That, I completely understand.
Karissa, God takes you at the point you are in your life right now and then He leads you from there. God’s plan for our lives changes sometimes from where He first started out because of choices we make. Just pray and spend time in the Bible and God will show you (even use fleeces as in the Old Testament–I have). God takes us as the old song says “Just as I am”. I’ll be praying for you as you deal with all this. For someone as young as you, you have been through the “fire” but God can bring you out of all of it with your precious children and dear husband also.
Thank you, Karen. You are such an encouragement. And I did not mean to say that I am not happy with my husband and children and my current life. I am!
Karissa, Just try to find God’s Will for you and your Family and then do your best to follow God’s Will. I don’t know why God allowed your brother, Will, to die. When you get to Heaven that is a question to ask God after you have seen Will up there. Mark and I are still members of the Nazarene Church though on inactive list. We go to a Cumberland Presbyterian Church out close to us (it is a small Church) where Mark leads the music. We have been going for close to 10 years but neither one of us have felt God leading us to join. I love the Nazarene Church, just not happy with how much some of them have changed (music–I think they should have Hymns and praise choruses), sense of reverence is no longer there (of course this just may be the Churches here and not everywhere), and they seem to preach sermons that I call “feel good” sermons. You don’t hear the sermons on sins and the fact if you are a sinner you are not going to Heaven. I guess I miss the “old” Nazarene Church I grew up in.
I know it is not much comfort, but I’m sure Will’s death has been used for good in the Kingdom of God. I always believe my Dad is up there watching over me.
I’ll be praying for you and your Family.
Your imagination of where you could be is probably not very realistic. We tend to imagine only good things, but every path has it’s own trials.
Our connection with our Father in heaven, the knowledge that we are doing His will, and the smile of His approval, is what gives any work in this life it’s meaning and purpose. Jesus’ one-ness with his Father is a very strong theme in the book of John.
Otherwise, all of the things we do in this earth are vanity. They all pass away. It is not so much what we do, as how we do it (or with what spirit we do it), that is important. The widow who gave her mites would have been forgotten to history had Jesus not mentioned her. There will be many heroes in heaven like this, of whom the world was unaware.
Jesus’ work with Joseph in the carpenter shop in Nazareth is little spoken about in the Bible. Yet it was during those days that He formed the character and experience that was the foundation of His ministry after the baptism. God takes very little and insignificant things and turns them into great teachers. God is able to take worms and thrash mountains:
14 Fear not, thou worm Jacob, and ye men of Israel; I will help thee, saith the Lord, and thy redeemer, the Holy One of Israel.
15 Behold, I will make thee a new sharp threshing instrument having teeth: thou shalt thresh the mountains, and beat them small, and shalt make the hills as chaff.
Thank you for this, Frank.