Friday, October 16, 2015

The Lonely Side of Spiritual Vocation

"Vocational loneliness means handing over your plans, your understanding of how things should be, your very liberty, to the greater forces of the Holy Spirit, to make of your life what God has in mind." Mary Sharon Moore MTS
Rich and I knew when we left our 35 year stretch in Thousand Oaks, California, we were paddling into unknown waters. For one thing, we knew it was time to leave, but we didn't know where to go. It was a strange predicament, for sure. We were experiencing a restlessness and felt like God was calling us out to ???......somewhere!

The next two years in Cambria, California, was an interesting interlude. We'd owned a home there for eight years so we chose to go there first to seek, wait, and listen. With a view of the Pacific Ocean out our front window and the sound of waves lulling us to sleep at night you'd wonder why we would even consider leaving. But both of us knew we needed to move on. Cambria was part of the journey...a temporary landing place.

Then we felt a call to move to Redding, California, where we are now. Although one of our adult children lives here, it wasn't the underlying reason we moved here. I won't try to list reasons why we chose it or try to make sense of it. We just knew. We told God we were open to going where He wanted to use us. We knew we would never be content with the typical retirement living model and wanted to be open to new experiences and ministry opportunities. Since we both do coaching, writing and consulting, we can work from pretty much anywhere.

We've been here going on five years now. And it has been a steep learning curve. This is not my comfort zone. With that statement I should say that returning to what we had in Southern California is not our burning heart's desire either or we would be back there by now. Once you hear and follow that vocational call, it is not easy to turn your back on it.

What I've learned:

When you choose vocation and significance over familiarity and comfort, you will experience loneliness. 

Probably the most challenging part of loneliness for me has been the lack of an intimate friendship or two here where I live. If you are female you know what I am talking about. I need a friendship that has been tested, tried, is safe, has common interests and levels that go down a long ways. It takes time to build something like this, but you can sense early on whether a friendship can go that distance or not. I realize few can. I've coped with this friend void by staying in touch regularly with a few close friends in Southern California and visiting them often, along with my siblings.

Some people say, "when you move you find out who your true friends are." But that doesn't express what I'm trying to say. Not everyone makes an effort to stay in touch with you after you move. These people don't really stop being your friends, but the type of connection you have with them does change. You realize they are part of a past chapter of your life. It becomes more of a history. To be resentful or refuse to let go of that change is pretty much a waste. I've been down that road.

Most of us know you can put yourself out there, be surrounded by people, and still be in a place of loneliness. I'm far from being bored. I have plenty to do and what I do is fulfilling. And I love being near grandchildren. The challenge for me has been how to cope with the loneliness. In some of my middle of the night conversations with God, He reminds me He didn't force us to come nor is He forcing us to stay. But at times He also whispers in my ear with an eager anticipation that intrigues me:  "Don't miss what I am doing here." Then I remember that's why we came.

(This is the first post in a series on the subject of loneliness in living out your spiritual vocation.)

Quotation:  Mary Sharon Moore, Copyright 2012.

Photography: Sheryl Bullock Copyright 2012


Michel said...

Sheryl, I know just what you mean. I had no doubt that God called us to Phoenix to help my mom, and I did all the things I knew to do to make those deep connections with women at church, but the friendships didn't happen. I met lots of neat gals and had Bible study buddies, but no deep connections. Just before we moved I connected with a like minded woman and that friendship continues. But it was a lonely five years, and I often reminded God of my need for a friend during those years but it didn't happen. I have wondered if It was meant for a lesson, or if it was just Life, and I don't know the answer. I have learned to reach out more intentionally to newbies and others who seem lonely and to value more consciously the friends I do have. I will be praying that you find that soul satisfying friendship. Thanks for sharing so transparently.

Pam Taylor said...

When you choose vocation and significance over familiarity and comfort, you will experience loneliness. --- I can relate. Thanks for your transparency and honesty. Your post is bound to meet many right where they "live"!

Tammy Goforth said...

I am SO hearing you, Sheryl! I am there....

Tom Stephen said...

Hey Sheryl,
Great post. I know when I moved to Newbury Park, it took about 2 years for me to begin to not feel lonely and to fully grieve the church I had left in Ventura. Ministry was meaningful and fulfilling, for sure, but it just took time to know others and to be known. Thanks for the great article. Definitely, hit home.