September 8, 2015

I’ve been blogging through Sue Monk Kidd’s When The Heart Waits: Spiritual Direction For Life’s Sacred Questions. The final chapter in this book about midlife’s transitions is entitled “Unfurling New Wings”. (Earlier installments in this series can be found here.) 

If all souls developed in cookie-cutter fashion, we would have spirituality by duplication rather than by waiting and transformation. Yet the tendency exists among Christians to want everybody to be at the same place at the same time. You know how it goes. Everybody should be actively ministering. (But even Jesus had seasons of waiting as well as ministering.) Everybody should be happy. (But even Jesus was at times sad, anguished, and in pain.) Everybody should be relating to God in the same way. (But even Jesus related to God in different ways – sometimes inwardly, sometimes outwardly.) What would happen if we allowed people to unfurl their wings and move into the fulness of being each in her own time and way?

577px-Backform_PlätzchenThis desire for conformity to certain norms and ideals is what sometimes passes for discipleship during the first half of life. Too many churches lean heavily on the cookie-cutter notion of followership. It’s a tricky business, as discipleship is about modeling faith so it can be both caught and taught by the next generation. However, sometimes peer pressure substitutes for genuine spiritual direction – direction that includes waiting and trusting God to do the transforming. Our own awkward middle school years should have taught us that peer pressure rarely leads us to become the people God made us to be.

Sue Monk Kidd notes that as midlife’s wait in the dark slowly, almost imperceptibly gives way to the dawn of second adulthood, the transition leaves us with some gifts. These include delight in God, a deeper connection to God’s nurturing care of us, a richer appreciation for creation, an awareness of what it means to inhabit the present moment, and greater authenticity in our relationships. Some conservative readers may stumble a bit over the feminine language and imagery Kidd uses to discuss God’s nurture, but I’d encourage them to step back a bit and consider what she’s expressing to her readers about midlife, as well as remembering the tender reality of God’s self-revelation to us as El Shaddai in the Hebrew Scriptures.

The gifts of midlife are summed up in the word ‘compassion’. If we allow the darkness of midlife to do its work in us, we will emerge better able to care well for ourselves and others.

Through our suffering, waiting, and growing we tap more of the compassionate we experience. It’s hard to do unless we first find our authentic self and become an I…It’s only because we’ve found our individual boundaries and truth that we can cross them to find a genuine oneness with others (and not lose ourselves in the process).

Compassion, or “suffering with”, is empathy, not pity. Most of us know without explanation which once we’ve experienced if we’ve shared a struggle with another person. If we’re willing to wait in the confusion and disorientation with God, midlife can move us toward true compassion for ourselves and others. We will look and act more like the Son as we emerge from the darkness into the second half of our lives.

* * * * * * *

For those of you who’ve followed my journey through this book – or those of you who’ve just happened by for this final post in the series – a couple of parting thoughts. If I could only recommend one book for those trying to make sense of the spiritual transitions of midlife, it would be Richard Rohr’s Falling Upward. I blogged through that book a couple of years ago. (Click here for links to the series.) When The Heart Waits is certainly an easier read, and does touch upon many of the same themes as Rohr’s book. I’ve noted before that you may not agree with every theological statement in either of these books. I didn’t either. But I can’t overstate the value of having a thoughtful and compassionate (!) guide through this bewildering, inside-out passage in life. Both books are worth including in your library if you’re interested in spiritual formation.

Rohr’s book addresses both the individual and the church community, and I believe both need to be engaged as we journey through midlife. The Dones phenomenon in church life has significant overlap with the questions and issues that arise at midlife and beyond. I’ve written frequently in this space about midlife and the church because I long for leaders to think seriously about how they can support and cultivate spiritual growth among those in the second half of life.

These books, and the writing I’ve done here, are meant to come alongside those of you waiting in the darkness. You are not alone, friend.

Friendship is born at that moment when one man says to another: “What! You too? I thought that no one but myself…” – C.S. Lewis 

Image via Creative Commons 2.o search/Wikimedia

September 1, 2015

I suppose I’d also come looking for some way to wait in my own darkness, to turn it into the kind of dark night that could incubate newness. Darkness remains deadening and nontransforming – like the tomb – unless we learn how to turn it into a creative and life-giving experience. – Sue Monk Kidd

I’ve been blogging my way through Sue Monk Kidd’s book on midlife. (Earlier installments in this series can be found here.) Chapter 7, entitled “Incubating The Darkness”, addresses what St. John of the Cross famously called the dark night of the soul.* Sue Monk Kidd explains, “God guides us the long way round. And sometimes that means winding through a dark wood. It doesn’t mean we’re lost, however. The darkness is a part of the trip. Too many of us panic in the dark. We don’t understand that it’s a holy dark and that the idea is to surrender to it and journey through the real light.”

10316805676_5483bf7817_zMidlife’s changes can include depression. It did for me, and I found myself sitting in a counselor’s chair as I worked through the wet, thick hopelessness that blanketed my days and disrupted my nights. Though the dark night of the soul may overlap with clinical depression, the two are not identical. “In the…darkness, God often seems absent,” she explains. “We begin to encounter Deus absconditis – the sense that God is playing hide and seek. I believe that what we’re experiencing, however, is the hiding of an old way of knowing and experiencing God, the crumbling of our ‘creation’ of who God is and the divine system that our egos have invested in.”

The dark night experience isn’t limited to midlife, though it certainly is a mile marker on the journey for many of us. This kind of darkness is a reminder that we can not go back to an earlier version of our lives or our belief system. It is a gift, but it is the kind of gift that can only be received fully in retrospect. Once we begin to discern that we may have entered a dark night of our soul and discover that there is no way out except to move through it, we can learn to work with it rather than fear or attempt to flee it. Kidd writes,

One way we coax the life of the new self is by living the questions that inhabit our dark night, by dwelling creatively with the unresolved inside us. 

I lived with questions about who I had been and who I was becoming, and about whether the growth was worth the pain, risk, and upheaval. I lived with questions about how to adopt parts of myself I had orphaned, how to heal old wounds, how to relate to an expanding vision of God and the world. 

I didn’t like the disorder and anxiety the questions produced, and I didn’t like the unknowing…

Jesus was a master at using questions to pull people into self-confrontation and growth. ‘What are you looking for?’ ‘Do you want to get well?’ ‘Who do you say that I am?’ ‘Why do you not understand what I say?’ ‘Do you love me?’ The New Testament is full of them. 

Most of us aren’t comfortable living with the tension of unresolved questions. “We’re more apt to try to quell the conflict by banishing the unwanted side of the opposites,” she notes. Maybe not so coincidentally, I’ve discovered I have the clearest view of the upside-down, inside-out kingdom of God in the tensions. Those tensions, improbable and impossible, are where a word moves a mountain. And those unresolved questions tend to push us forward, further into the dark.

God intends those dark nights of the soul to “burn us clean”, in contrast with neurotic suffering which is marked by self-pity and despair. King David reminds us that even the darkness is not dark to God: “If I say, ‘Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,’ even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.” (Ps. 139:11, 12) He is there in the darkness with us. Kidd writes, “When we’re knocked off our feet by pain, the welts raised upon our soul are experienced by God, who is closer than our own skin.” 

It might be hard to believe in the darkness, but this is indeed what the dark night of the soul can teach us if we’re willing to cooperate with it. If we’ve been through it and found ourselves on the other side of it, the best gift we can give to others experiencing this facet of spiritual life is to orient them to it by sharing our experience. Our well-meaning tendency to try to fix it, which is often rooted in our own discomfort with the darkness, can short-circuit what God is actually doing in someone else’s life.

If you’ve ever experienced a dark night of the soul, what or who helped orient you to what was happening?  


* If you’re looking to do additional exploration on this and related topics, you can read St. John’s work here. I also recommend Marlena Graves’ A Beautiful Disaster and Kathleen Norris’ Acedia and Me.

Image via Creative Commons 2.0 search/Flickr

August 4, 2015

We’ve underestimated the presence of grace among us. We’ve built up a callus over it with our cynicism and the religious certainties that render us incapable of being surprised. 

If we’re to wait, we must relearn the extravagance of grace. – Sue Monk Kidd

I’ve been blogging my way through Sue Monk Kidd’s 1990 book about midlife, When The Heart Waits: Spiritual Direction For Life’s Sacred QuestionsClick here to read earlier posts in the series.

This chapter focuses on getting and staying still when our instincts tell us to do something – anything to put an end to the disorientation of this life transition. A gripe: though she uses some big terms like ‘Divine center’ and ‘grace’, she offers only cursory explanations of these terms, which can leave some readers with the task of filling in the blanks. Certainly it is possible to infer meaning from context, but these concepts are too big not to clarify her use of them. The mushy, vague spiritual language in the first few pages of this chapter left me a little disoriented.

Thankfully, her focus becomes somewhat tighter as she unfolds the notion of cocooning with God through waiting prayer. Citing Eugene Peterson, Kidd explains that waiting is the opposite of the kinds of intercessory or imprecatory prayers we learn to pray. While essential, these prayers can work against being still and learning afresh that God is God: “We place ourselves in postures of the heart, in the stillness that enables us to become aware of what God is doing so we can gradually say yes to it with our whole being.”

Christ Giving Sight To Bartimaeus, William Blake, 1799
Christ Giving Sight To Bartimaeus, William Blake, 1799

The value in this chapter for me was in her exposition of what the prayer of stillness is like. Kidd notes this kind of prayer is a posture, not a pile of words. It can be found in three examples of sitting described in the Bible:

  • Mary sitting at the feet of Jesus (see Luke 10:39) – quieting yourself in order to attend to God
  • Sitting while Jesus prays (Garden of Gethsemene, Mark 14:32) – resting with God in order to allow him to do the work of restoration and replenishment
  • Blind Bartimaeus sitting alongside the road (Mark 10:46-52) – learning to open our clenched fists in order to express dependence and receive what we didn’t earn (grace!)

I have a friend who lives with Jesus in a gracious, light-filled old house. The TV is in the basement, so it takes work to get down there to watch it. There are piles of books everywhere. She’ll occasionally have worship music or perhaps a sermon playing on the radio, but she is just as likely to let the house’s silence be her soundtrack.

Some of our prayer times in this space have been blessedly empty of words. We will sit in silence together for a long, long time before either of us ever utters a syllable. I’ll be honest – I fight the temptation to fill that space with my own concerns or even quoted Scripture. I’ve learned that if I let it ride long enough, the temptation passes me by and I simply sit in the presence of God with my friend. When at last one or the other of us begins to pray aloud, the sound of the words can sometimes be a little unsettling. They kind of feel like awkward tourists clambering with their guidebooks and cameras into a holy site. Our expressions of concern and praise are welcomed by our loving heavenly Father, just as we’ve already been without saying a word. This experience of praying with my friend in a Quaker-way has given me a vivid image of the prayer of stillness.

Kidd is talking about more than just a prayer time here. She is talking about a determination to not use our words or actions to hack out of the uncomfortable cocoon of transition. We may be there for a long, long time, but not a second is wasted. The waste comes when we try to make something happen in our lives. Creation only happened when the eternal God spoke it into being. That truth applies here as well: we can not hasten the purpose for the second half of our lives by wrestling it into reality. It happens when we stop trying to make it happen, and instead sit at the feet of Jesus, our beggar’s hands extended, and let him pray for us.

Does it feel strange to sit before God without words? Why or why not? 


Image via Creative Commons Search 2.0/Wikimedia

July 15, 2015

Sue Monk Kidd tackled midlife transition in her 1990 classic When The Heart Waits: Spiritual Direction for Life’s Sacred Questions. I’m blogging my way through the book. (Click here to read previous installments in this series.) Monk Kidd’s gentle observations have been helpful to many facing their own emotional and spiritual changes at this life stage.

Chapter 5 is entitled “Letting Go”*. She notes most of us enter transition with a good measure of ambivalence, citing the process of metamorphosis as an illustration:

3386119767_81a3e612a8_m…Caterpillars don’t yield themselves to the cocoon at the same rate. When the moment to spin the chrysalis arrives, some of them actually resist and cling to their larval life. They put off entering the cocoon until the following spring, postponing their transformation a year or more. This state of clinging has a name. It’s called the ‘diapause.’

I have a grandson who will be twelve next month. One moment, he’s still a young boy. The next, he’s a teen. The cycling betwixt the two (remember how bewildering it was to enter adolescence?) reminds me very much of what it is like to enter midlife. Time and our own physiological changes within it are pulling us forward, but we fight to return to what we know. We’re clinging like a rebellious larvae to our own diapause. The effort that goes into this clinging can look like doing more of whatever has been successful for us up to this point. If our work has provided meaning and structure to our first-half life, then perhaps we work harder, even if we sense we’re being nudged toward a change of focus in our career – or life. Wrestling through this process is a necessary part of the journey. But at some point, relinquishment at a deep level must come. That letting go can be pretty darn terrifying. Monk Kidd observed:

The opposite of courage isn’t only fear but security.

Our struggle to hold on to the familiar must end in letting go into the disorienting darkness of the unknown. Only then, often with excruciatingly gradual realization, will we discover that we are being held by God. I’ve always read Matthew 10:39 (“If you lose your life for my sake, you will find it”) as a a description of service or martyrdom. Jesus’ words apply just as fairly and fully to the necessary surrender leading us into the unknown of second adulthood.

Scripture helps us see some of what those in their second half can be when held in the safe hands of the Lord. I am grouping the instructions Paul wrote to Titus by gender in order to highlight the mentoring role of older adults. These instructions are predicated on the understanding that these “olders” have learned what it is to surrender to God:

Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God. (Titus 2:3-5)

Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance…Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled. In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us. (Titus 2:2, 6-8)

We can only teach and model what is good because we’ve internalized it, and been transformed by it. But these verses also highlight the fact discipleship continues into the second half. Who is cultivating this process in our olders?

Sue Monk Kidd’s chapter highlights the fact that while letting go in order to move forward is a parable of spiritual development, it can be nurtured in the form of books by authors who’ve been there, spiritual directors, and gifted teachers and friends. We give each other a great gift when we recognize and affirm the way in which the Holy Spirit is at work in the life of another who may find him or herself in the darkness of midlife. Our words and prayers may be used to help another let go, which is as much a work of discipleship as mentoring the next generation.   

Have you ever experienced the longing for diapause? What person, experience or practice helped you recognize it in your life and/or move through it?

* For some crazy reason, this chapter title has special resonance for me.


Image via Creative Commons 2.0 search/Flickr

May 14, 2015

“Without maps and signposts, people search for their inner home in the wrong places: in professional success, material status, institutions, person, pleasure, and on and on. But none of these can be home. We end up spiritual refugees.” – Sue Monk Kidd

cocoonI’m blogging through Sue Monk Kidd’s 1990 book on midlife transition, When The Heart Waits: Spiritual Direction For Life’s Sacred Questions. (Click here for earlier posts in the series.) Chapter 4 is called “Crisis As Opportunity”, which sounds like a business school pep talk. Instead, Kidd situates her observations about midlife in the natural world. Think of the process of transformation by which a larva becomes a cocoon and a cocoon becomes a butterfly. She writes, “…there’s first a movement of separation, then a holding environment where transformation happens, and finally an emergence into a new existence.”

She describes the nature of this transformation via a series of crises in the prophet Jonah’s life. She references Erik Eriksen’s eight stages of life development and notes that it takes crisis, then resolution in order to progress/mature from one stage to the next. Another pressure point that draws us into crisis include an intrusive event like illness, divorce, unemployment or death of a relative or close friend.

In addition, she notes that our own internal world can force us into crisis. “An internal uprising could be as a vague sense of restlessness, some floating disenchantment, a whispering but relentless voice that says, There has to be more than this. Why are you doing what you’re doing?” Internal uprising might also include exhaustion, burnout, addiction or a crisis of faith.

“The Chinese word for crisis is composed of two characters. On top is the sign for danger; beneath is the sign for opportunity. That character graphically illustrates the saying, ‘Crisis is really another name for redirection’,” Kidd writes. “A minister friend of mine, who has seen countless Christians through crisis events, told me that he didn’t think most Christians knew how to have a crisis – at least not creatively.”

She noted that believers either surrender to the crisis with a “It’s God’s will” fatalism that keeps us from engaging with the transformation God is working in our souls. “People who have a crisis in this manner are generally after comfort and peace of mind,” she notes.

The other option is to fight the crisis like we’re at war. Rejecting it in this way can lead to cynicism and a loss of faith. Those who choose this way to deal with a crisis in their lives are after justice, she says.

She points back to the process by which transformation happens from larvae to cocoon to butterfly. Neither Christian fatalism nor mortal combat will resolve the crisis. Instead, she advocates for a far more difficult tactic: waiting.

“That way means creating a painfully honest and contemplative relationship with one’s own depths, with God in the deep center of one’s soul. People who choose this way aren’t so much after peace of mind or justice as wholeness and transformation. They’re after soulmaking.”

Throughout Scripture, God works through crisis to draw his people to wholeness. From the crisis of slavery in Egypt to freedom in the Promised land. From the compromise of idolatry leading to deportation in Babylon to a return home. From the crisis of Good Friday to Resurrection Sunday. From the disciples lingering in Jerusalem to the empowerment of Pentecost. Kidd cites the tensions of her own internal crisis and the trapped sense she carried when she considered her long-time marriage as pulling her to the desert of the dark night of the soul, and recognized the value of symbols, rather than words, to orient her in her uncomfortable wait.

“Jesus also believed in the spiritual power available within symbols. I amthe vine; I am the door; this bread is my body; this wine is my blood; with these words he was creating symbols – images that point to much deeper realities – and giving us a way to contact those realities. Participating with symbols allows their deeper meaning to wrap around us and penetrate us. Through them, what is lost and unutterable inside us becomes real and accessible.”

I’ve found that the Evangelical and Charismatic world, on the whole, tends to speak of crisis and suffering in either a fatalistic or militaristic manner. We’ve been accused of being “mile wide, inch deep” people, which keeps us from knowing how to respond when deep calls to deep. “Deep” isn’t a well of chirpy cliches; it may be a single whispered word from God, an image, or silence. I am learning how to speak the language of “deep” through crisis.

How about you? How has your church experience helped or hindered you from learning the language of “deep”?   

Image via Creative Commons 2.0 search/Flickr

February 20, 2015

Philosopher Soren Kierkegaard wrote that “the ultimate thing” is whether you yourself are conscious of that most intimate relation to yourself as an individual. This “ultimate” recognition is a necessary part of growing up. – Sue Monk Kidd

kiddI’ve been blogging through Sue Monk Kidd’s 1990 classic about midlife spiritual transformation, When The Heart Waits. Click here to read earlier posts in the series.

Chapter 3 opens with a crash course in Carl Jung’s developmental theories, as interpreted through a Christian world view. These ideas have been fleshed out further in seminal works by James Fowler and by Hagberg and Guelich. I won’t regurgitate here except to say that the language of first few pages of the chapter may be a bit thick if you’ve never read about ego structures and false selves. Kidd herself reframes the language in terms of necessary brokenness and surrender before moving to a valuable discussion about the “they” forming our identity during the first half of our lives.

“We may like to think that we’re individuals living out our own unique truth, but more often we’re scripts written collectively by society, family, church, job, friends, and traditions…we need our roles and identities, of course, but we also need to live them authentically, in ways that are true to our unique and inner self. When we live exclusively out of the expectations thrust on us from without, rather than living them from the truth emerging within, we become caught in the collective ‘they’.” This sort of talk may sound like flaming heresy to a generation of Christian women who had these first-half of life roles underscored with talk of “Jesus first, others second, yourself last”, she wrote. (I wrote about this very issue here.) While we all battle selfishness and its root sin, pride, we have learned to call things sin that may not be.

In fact, our sin may be lurking in the false identities we form. He who is the way, the truth and the life invites us through the crisis of midlife to cast those off and follow him. He didn’t call the person I thought I was supposed to be – the dutiful wife, the good mother, the always-cheerful employee, the willing volunteer. He called the real me, the one he made, and knows intimately. The one for whom he died.

Kidd writes about the tendency in many women to become pleasers who find their identity in the validation of others. She wrote,”It’s amazing how many women remain stuck at this girlish level of development. It’s understandable, though, when you realize how much around us encourages it. Everybody loves a pleaser. People who exhibit a mind of their own, straying from the status quo, are less welcome. Look at the life of Jesus. He wasn’t a pleaser. Rather than adapt to expectations, he lovingly dared to be his own person. You see where it got him.”

The remainder of the chapter covers some of the common false selves we put on during the first half of our lives in order to gain the love and acceptance of others: the Little Girl With A Curl (the pleaser), the Tinsel Star (the perfectionist), Rapunzel (the victim awaiting someone else’s rescue), Little Red Hen (the martyr), the Woodman (the “conceal, don’t feel” attitude we saw in Frozen), and Chicken Little (the avoider). Most of us have an identity that bears the imprint of this cast of characters. Some may play minor roles. Perhaps one or two may be dominant. I think I was perhaps most the Little Girl With A Curl and the Tinsel Star. Those roles prescribed by others come to all of us naturally as we find our way in the world, and may serve us for a season in our lives.

However, they are not the destination. The crisis of midlife is meant to pry those masks off of us. It doesn’t happen all at once, and we don’t always recognize it until it is well underway, but that sense of “who am I?” unmasked confusion can be the mark of a second half that is far less about living like an exile or refugee, and far more about becoming a pilgrim. Job said it truest: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart.” (Job 1:21). Stripped of the artifice of our acted roles, we learn to live this story in the second half of our lives. 

If you’ve hit midlife, which of those fairy tale roles most characterized your first half? If you’ve been in the process of shedding those masks, what’s been the most challenging part of learning to live without them? 

February 9, 2015

We live in an age of acceleration, in an era so seduced by the instantaneous that we’re in grave danger of losing our ability to wait. – Sue Monk Kidd

Sue Monk Kidd wrote these words in 1990, before smart phones and always-on accelerated our lives in ways we couldn’t have imagined way back in the good old days of AOL dial-up. Yet our culture was already moving at the speed of frantic twenty-five years ago. The expectation of instant has come at a high cost. She asks, “Where is our willingness to  incubate pain and let it birth something new? What has happened to patient unfolding, to endurance?”

I’m blogging my way through her book When The Heart Waits, which offers some helpful, discussion-worthy insights for those who are jowl-deep in midlife transition. To read the first in this series, click here. In Chapter 2, she addresses what hurry-up does to our souls as we face the transition into midlife. The excruciating, painful time of waiting in the cocoon is the only way through to spiritual growth. “To be spiritual is to confront the pain, rather than make an enemy of it,” Kidd writes. “When Jesus told us to love our enemies, I suspect that he was talking about our inner enemies too.” She notes that most of us don’t know how to wait at all. We either grit our teeth or flail frantically in an effort to squirm free of the discomfort of waiting. That discomfort is correlated to our aversion to feeling deep existential loneliness. We will try anything to rid ourselves of the kind of loneliness that goes along with waiting. Kidd writes,

Mostly I saw life ‘happening’ in the future. It can be jolting to discover how much of life we project there.

I didn’t have words for it, but a decade ago, I first felt the shadows of midlife falling across my life. Those shadows didn’t just obscure light, they had an isolating personality all their own. So I took a job I expected would chase the shadows to the far horizon, a pre-emptive strike against the kind of lonely waiting that came from not knowing who I was outside of what I did as a full-time home-school mom and part-time writer and tutor. I may not have been all that clear on who I was as a person in the eyes of God, but I had great clarity about what others seemed to value about me.

I figured I could avoid the empty-nest crisis if I built a bridge into a busy-busy life after kids. My clever strategy to keep the pain at bay did not work. After two years, just as my youngest was about to graduate from high school, I resigned the staff position that was my bulletproof insurance policy against midlife’s crisis. We relocated a couple of months or so after that. Ka-blooey! All of the pre-emptive planning I’d done so I could catapult across the chasm of midlife directly into the next chapter without so much as a whiff of pain splattered all over my life like a water balloon.

I was facing confusion more profound than I could have imagined, and I had no choice but to wait…and wait…for a Plan B to emerge. The spiritual disciplines I’d built into my life to that point sustained me during the weeks that stretched into months, then years. Other helps for me included a husband who was in the same uncomfortable waiting zone I was as it bonded us during a time when these changes were driving apart other couples we knew, and the gift of a faithful prayer partner willing to help me put words to what God was doing in my life.

Those disciplines and relationships taught me a thing or two about leaning hard into the right now – doing the exact thing every cell in my body was telling me to avoid. How I wanted to run! I didn’t have much desire to head backwards to the good ol’ days, bubread dough risingt my impulse was to head directly into the future, whatever that was. God showed me that staying put (for what? for how long? arrrgh!) was what obedience to him looked like. Doing anything else would have short-circuited the transforming work he was doing in me, and was the beginning of unmooring myself from my addiction to all the coping mechanisms that had been so successful for me as I built the first half of my life. The waiting was a faithwalk, even though I didn’t feel as though I was going anywhere.

Sue Monk Kidd ends her chapter with the story of baking bread with her young daughter. At first, the girl was impatient with the process of letting the bread rest before baking. But when she saw how the lump of dough expanded with warmth, time and solitude, she said, “It’s yeasting!” What a great word, and an apt metaphor for what is happening when it looks like when the compass guiding the first half of our lives seems to spin in indeterminate circles and we’re forced to invited to stay put and yeast. It may not make a very interesting task list, but yeasting is precisely what is happening in the “Now what, Lord?” zone.

When you’ve been put into a “yeasting” mode, what relationships or practices have sustained you during the wait? 


Image from Flickr, Creative Commons 2.0

Browse Our Archives