Thursday, May 25, 2017

the discipline of missing out

In my youth, and particularly as a teenager, I worked overtime at one job more than any other.  

No, it wasn't the one in the shoe department at Belk 
or the one as a day camp counselor over the summer 
or the countless babysitting gigs.  

The job I put the most blood, sweat, and tears into was the job of not. missing. out. on. anything.  

As an extrovert with closet insecurities, I felt a burning need to always be ‘in the know’ - to maintain my acceptance by peers, increase my influence over others,  and preserve my privilege of inclusion.  Sometimes it truly felt like a full-time job {and we didn’t even have cell phones or texting back then!}.  I spent a lot of time on my Victorian style phone with creamy coil connecting the vintage-looking receiver to its gold plastic base.  I wanted to be a part of
all the conversations and
all the parties and
all the sleepovers and
all the road trips
and I feared missing anything because maybe I wouldn’t know about the next thing 
or the next thing 
and eventually I wouldn’t just be missing out, I would BE out.  
On my own.  No longer a part of the ‘in’ crowd. 

This morning as I sat alone fully embracing the fact that there were many things I was voluntarily missing out on in order to reap the benefits of solitude, I got a text from one of my college girls.  Anna is working at a camp in Texas over the summer and she has been struggling with spending a month in a new place away from everyone she knows.  She has a heart for God so she knows there is a bigger picture.  I think she was just wishing she could see it.  She wrote to tell me she had been so encouraged by something from one of my books she just read.  I went back to read the section she referred to and I had a lightbulb moment.

The piece Anna was referencing was about Moses and how even {or especially} the unglamorous seasons of his life when he found himself alone, an outsider, far from ‘in the know’, were preparing him for something greater.  I realized there may be some advantage to the discipline of missing out.  

It is solitude on steroids.  

It is voluntarily choosing to remove yourself from the people who know and accept you to do something else, on your own.  When I was in college that prospect might have terrified me.  Anna is much more spiritually mature than I was at her age. 

I can’t be sure, but I’m wondering if there is a slight fear of missing out in her heart.  I’m wondering if she feels lonely and her mind wanders to others who are off on fun vacations with their friends or back home relaxing with their families.  Those thoughts could create a longing, a desire to escape, for anyone.  There is an allure to the easier, bustling, more familiar path all your friends are taking and an aversion to the unknown, quiet one you take alone with fallen tree limbs to step over and hidden rocks that could cause you to trip and face plant.  

When we remove ourselves from what is familiar and comfortable there can be a painful transition period, but on the other side is something worth all the heartache.  On the other side is a clarity of vision for who we are and who God is.  That could never be obtained when so much of our energy and attention is taken up by not missing out.  When we are constantly in the presence of friends and family we begin to adopt an identity defined by them and we lose the essence of our identity defined by God.

All our efforts to not miss out on what is happening in the temporary world around us actually cause us to miss out on what God wants to do with the eternal world within us.  So I’m praying Anna through the transition, knowing God’s reward for her is on the other side - the IN-side {not the IN crowd} will be rich.  I’m proud of her for being brave enough to go to a place where she is unknown by others so that she might be more fully known in the presence of her Creator.

From where I sit I can see the vegetable garden in my back yard.  Just yesterday hard and heavy rains pelted those tender runner beans that had just begun to stretch towards the sky.  It’s not easy to stand there on your own and endure that kind of discomfort, but today they stand taller and their purple blossoms have been revealed.  God knew standing alone in the hard and heavy rains were exactly what they needed in this season of their growth.  Very soon they will produce the harvest they were created to produce - and so will we.