Over the past year or so I’ve been in a time of discernment. It has been my experience that these times of anticipating transition or finding a new path in life are not easy times; they are times full of ambivalence and feeling unsettled and even grief. They are also times of hope and eagerness.
Part of this discernment has been understanding that my movement into the next season of my life is into an uncharted path. It feels a bit like a Lenten journey or a time walking the labyrinth. It is easy to let the feelings of ambivalence and uncertainty take priority, and sometimes hope seems in short supply.
Step by step, the way into retirement has become clearer. It is true, I didn’t expect to be making this decision right now; I always thought I’d work until I was 70. My next birthday will mark the 65th birthday I’ve celebrated. I am doing fulfilling and good work. In fact, I love my job and feel deeply called. In moving away from regular employment a few things have become clear and guiding principles.
First, it has been important for me to remember some advice I often give to others: identify that to which I am being called. Don’t simply rest in the fact that I will be leaving something. For me, the calling is very strong; I am being called into a season of grandparenthood, a season of loving the children of my children.
Then, again advice I’ve given others, enter this season with the same openness I seek whenever I enter the labyrinth. I’ve experienced walking the labyrinth many, many times—sometimes as part of a retreat under the direction of someone else. Other times I’ve sought out this marked path at a local Dominican Center, or outdoors bound by fragrant lavender plants, or at my desk using a small model and a stylus. The experience is sound, and if I approach the labyrinth without expectation, I always receive a gift of clarity or peace.
Lastly, this time of discernment has been shaped by the words of a trusted colleague. “God wants us to have the deepest desires of our hearts.” Not the creature comforts of our culture. But, those things our hearts most long for. In this season for me, it is the company of my family, the invitation to love wastefully, the openness to feel God’s presence in every day.
Hearing Evidence of God’s Grace
In the opening blog for this series, Rev. Beth Long-Higgins urges us to seek out and to acknowledge the abundance of grace in our daily lives. As I have moved through the years of my call to ordained ministry, I have been guided by a passage of scripture. And, in transition, I hear the words as evidence of God’s grace.
19 Truly, O people in Zion, inhabitants of Jerusalem, you shall weep no more. He will surely be gracious to you at the sound of your cry; when he hears it, he will answer you. 20Though the Lord may give you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your Teacher will not hide himself any more, but your eyes shall see your Teacher. 21And when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left, your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.’ (Isaiah 30:19-21)
Even as I wait to know what the path ahead might hold, I can hear the voice of my teacher urging me to recognize “the way,” to “walk in it,” and to know that I am filled with God’s grace and presence as I do. The assurance of this comes from the backward view of the path of my life, so far. In retrospect, sometimes easier, I can see that in times of greatest joy and deepest distress this inexplicable, unwavering presence persists. In grieving my husband’s death. In anticipating the births of children and grandchildren. In discerning a drastic turn toward seminary education. In this time. And, in recognizing this, there is a sense of abundance of grace.
I wonder, given that this blog is part of the Ruth Frost Parker Center for Abundant Aging, I wonder if this is a way for me to experience this next season of life as one of abundance, rather than of loss. To recall the assurance intentionally and to expect the sense of ease that comes from the voice beckoning to me to move ahead. Sense the abundance of love, abundance of family, abundance of grace—every single day.
Questions For Reflection (either individually or with a group)
Read the blog. Read it a second time, maybe reading it aloud or asking someone else to read it aloud so you can hear it with different intonation and emphases. Then spend some time with the questions with anything that helps you reflect more deeply.
- In past times of transition and discernment, what have you found to be most helpful to inspire you to move forward?
- What advice or guiding principles might you share to help someone facing a time of transition?
- When you think about aging, how can you better develop an attitude of abundance rather than one of scarcity and loss?
Download a pdf including the Reflection Questions to share and discuss with friends, family, or members of your faith community small group.