Remember the book and wildly popular subsequent movie Eat, Pray, Love? I never read the book, but I hated the movie. The protagonist was so self-centered, so entitled, I thought. She couldn’t find joy and contentment with the perfectly comfortable life she had. “First world problems,” I’d scoffed.
Now I’m feeling hypocritical. I KNOW how fortunate and blessed I am. I breathe thanksgiving in and out. But I also sometimes wonder if it’s a mistake to refer to these gifts as “blessings.” Would I be any less blessed in a different house? With different children? In different circumstances? If one of us falls sick, if the job goes away, does that diminish God’s provision in my life? I don’t think it does. I think we measure in the currency that we know, but that doesn’t mean it’s the way God does.
Regardless, I am thankful for this loving, understanding husband who (at this time) has been able to provide so amply for our family, who truly is my partner. I’m thankful for this spacious retreat that I really do love, for all its needed updates. I’m in awe of our beautiful children—overwhelmed with love and joy that I get to mother them, for all the tantrums and fighting and learning we’re all doing, and for all the lost sleep.
These other feelings are there though, too, around the edges. I’ve been fighting them, but here’s the thing: I think they get to stay. I don’t think they diminish the others. So often I’ve said life seems to me to be a lot of “and,” not so much “or.” We live in so much of this tension every day and, for me, choosing to rage against it isn’t often as productive as learning to wade through it.
I can stuff down the feeling but there it remains: Something is missing. In my heart I know I am doing work with eternal significance. Feeding and tending to and nurturing and teaching and leading my small children is of the utmost importance. I am grateful for the chance to give it my full attention. Feathering this nest is not inconsequential. But at the end of these days sometimes my tired soul sighs, “Is this it?” Is this my calling? It doesn’t feel like this is all there is. I know I can’t be the only one muddling through this.
So I’m praying and seeking, but it’s not just that. I’m challenging myself to do my part. I’m vowing to put my oxygen mask on before assisting others—vowing to write, to read, to seek and surround myself and my loves with beauty and wonder. To take care of my body and my soul along with all of theirs. I’m praying to see beyond my children’s behavior to their real and precious selves. I’m praying to see beyond my moods and discontent to my real and precious self—to remind myself that this girl is a treasure beloved by God. I’m trying to trust that He knows my heart, that He knows and cares about the things that feel life affirming to me and that maybe there’s a plan I just can’t see; maybe all those threads aren’t random, and maybe they’ll be connected in due time. I’m praying to be a blessing in this sorting, to see the next right thing and to have the courage to do it.
If you’ve felt this way too— if you know the longing present even in the midst of joy— please don’t stuff it down. Don’t put it on the shelf for sometime “after.” Please raise your hand. It’s hard for me to remember all the reasons making space for myself is important. I’d love to encourage you, and your presence alone would encourage me. Join me in the tension of contentment and restlessness. I don’t know what we’ll find. It feels awkward and uncharted, but it doesn’t have to be lonely.