If one asks, I can give an account of my twenties pretty quickly. Transition has given no regard to my age or stage of life. Rather, it’s come on its own, as it pleases, most often in several forms at once. The chronology reads more like a T.V. series including, but not limited to: “The Year of Fire Spinning Boyfriend”, “The Year the Holy Spirit Showed Up” and “The Years of Basement Dwelling.” This decade has been far from comfortable. Like ink marking height on a wall, there are benchmarks on my soul as I’ve grown through one transition to the next.
Turning 30 has caused me to do a good bit of introspection and questioning. While most of my friends are on their 6th or 7th year of marriage, second kid, and first home my biggest victory has been keeping the same apartment (and roommate) for a third year. I can’t recall a benchmark of ‘good’ that isn’t equally tethered to loss. My journey has looked much different than I anticipated.
My stories are more of risks that end with skinned knees and injustice. They are moments fought over with tears through dark nights. They are tales of reluctant obedience and arduous conversations with Jesus while washing more-dishes-than-you-can-count. These moments have formed my soul and shaped the way I see.
One distinct moment of loss came in learning to use my voice in advocacy. I had worked with a larger non-profit in our predominantly white community which advocated for women. Myself and my mentor (who was white) had worked on a project to help refugees and immigrants in our community.
The nonprofit wanted to honor her at a banquet and promote her work in the area. While this wasn’t a horrible thing, I challenged the organization’s decision to not support leadership within our minority communities. I argued about feeling like we had been used at the banquet as props for a fundraiser. (You can read about it here). It escalated quicker than I expected. I suddenly realized I had challenged this organization and their system of doing things and my friendship with my mentor became the battleground.
I knew when I showed up in this conversation my mentor was confronted with having to identify me as part of our community of color. I was no longer easily assimilated into her world because of my education, our shared faith or lack of a language barrier. I had suddenly become the “other.” I knew I had a choice too. I saw how my position, education and voice could be used to advocate for the marginalized in our community. I could be a bridge, but it would challenge my comfort and ease of being able to fit in our larger, dominant culture.
I took the risk and lost my housing, relationship, and it changed my reputation in our community. Although I know that following Jesus looks like advocating for the underrepresented, in the moment, obedience hardly felt worth it. It resulted in broken relationships and displacement that is still present in my life today.
Transition has also complicated my relationship with comfort. One of my biggest temptations is letting my idea of comfort be formed by things. If I’m not careful, jobs, homes, family, friendships or a myriad of other intangible things quickly become validation of my spiritual wellness.
Comfort becomes distorted. I choose the lie that if I desire something good and do not get it, it must not be good. Or worse yet, I’m what’s not good enough. Comfort quickly becomes contingent on my notions of ‘happily ever after’. Maybe I’m missing something that everyone else has figured out.
In my moments of transition, it’s easy to want to argue with God about the comfort a job, spouse or even a dog would bring. None of these things are wrong or bad. In fact, that’s half of the challenge for me—knowing that I want good things. The problem is when I allow these good things to become points of comparison. Like a small pebble in a shoe, they become bothersome, irritable to my soul. But my scars from skinned knees have taught me a surprising lesson: sometimes comfort comes through loss.
Over the years, I’ve found more solace in the words where Jesus talks about what we lose, rather than what we gain. He tells me as I lose more of myself He becomes greater. I’ve learned to see loss as a pruning of my soul. My favorite contemplative, Richard Rohr talks about loss this way:
“Though so much of life is filled with suffering, disappointment, disillusionment, absurdity, and dying, God will turn all of our crucifixions into resurrections. Look at it in Jesus, believe it in Jesus, admire it in Jesus, love it in Jesus, and let it take shape in your own soul.”¹
Transition becomes a place of constant exchange between me and the Lord. Though there is loss in transition, it now becomes a sacred space where I begin to explore things that are beyond what I could ask or imagine. He uses loss to resurrect more of who He is in me. My soul is shaped to continually recognize and reimagine the Great Comforter in each moment of transition.
¹ Richard Rohr, Chris, Cosmology and Consciousness: A Reframing of How We See. (CAC, 2010)
Latest posts by Ruthie Johnson (see all)
- Dear Portia: How Do You Find Belonging When Your Ancestry Is Erased? - July 24, 2017
- Ruthie’s Multicultural Book List - June 26, 2017
- The Stigma of Need - May 23, 2017