Wednesday, December 2, 2015

When loneliness leads you into vocation - Sheila's story

This state of desolation—manifested through a deep sense of loneliness—is all pervasive in all societies and situations today now more than ever!  However, we are a people of hope. “Our help is in the name of the Lord who made heaven and earth!” 
Fr. Ed Broom

Despite careful planning, the expectations Sheila and her husband had for their move to another city over 2,000 miles away, didn't pan out. Once the move was completed everything seemed to unravel. Not only did their expectations in their new town not come to fruition, but Sheila's cancer returned. And after a negative experience with a new oncologist, she added "incompetent medical community" to her long list of complaints.

Looking back she realizes her perspective was skewed and warped in so many ways. She was convinced there was nothing about her new surroundings that had any positive merit. This attitude trapped her in a downward spiral which she now refers to as a "spiritual desolation."

She was trying to adapt to a new town and grieve the loss of the familiar and friends left behind at the same time. She felt very alone and a local support system was no where to be found. Fear crept in and took up residence. She didn't want to live like this.

At some point Sheila realized she was sowing seeds of bitterness in her life. That realization was a wake up call for her. She said "I recognized I was coming against my own faith." Sheila began to ask the question, "What is the purpose of loneliness?" While there are no easy answers for that one, just admitting the loneliness was the first step for her. By asking that question, she began looking for new seeds she could sow to replace the bitterness that had taken root.

Sheila began to look around her at people who were in great need. A compassion for them slowly began to grow in her.

During this time Sheila created an art journal and over an 18 month period of time she filled it with pictures along with words and phrases she wanted to be symbolic of her new thinking. Each page in the journal represented progress toward a changed mind. "It gave me a visual reminder that I was moving forward," she said. She was now looking around her for opportunities where she could minister to others. Gradually, the bitterness went away as she took steps to live out her rediscovered faith in demonstrative and tangible ways.

One of the other things that was very instrumental in her healing was reading a book called, "Pursue the Intentional Life," by Jean Fleming. Sheila said that while reading the book, "I saw there was another way to live. I saw the neediness in my soul and released it to the Lord. But that process took awhile! Until I let go of having my own needs met first, I couldn't offer the soil for the seeds of the author's wise words to be sown. As I gradually began to plant the seeds in obedience and faith, the Lord watered and the healing began."

Sheila relinquished her unfulfilled expectations and came to accept that God is in charge of all of it. Some of the difficult things in her life and community have not changed, but her attitude and purpose have.

While Sheila's story is not one of intentionally choosing vocational calling as part of the move, she now chooses to live in her calling. God is using her in ways she never imagined. Although it has not been easy and she still deals with loneliness at times, she has grown into someone who chooses to actively live in hope and joy.

She says, "I'm not looking for a friend any longer. Just give me a place to serve."

James 1:2-6 "Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. (New International Version)

(This is the 3rd post in a series on vocational loneliness. You can begin reading through the series here.)

Photos:  plant - Aliaksei Matsiushkou
             pencils - Bershadsky Yuri

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