My small church graciously held open my position as associate pastor for six months after the twins were born. As the time ticked by and the heavy heat of summer turned into fall, then winter, my mind and heart danced anxiously around the decision of whether or not I would return to work. There were the usual pressures, finances and a fear of losing ground professionally, as well as the fear of losing myself in the incredible task of caring for four young children if I didn’t return to work.
In my heart, though, I knew I simply couldn’t do it. At five months out my body was still worn-out from the incredible pregnancy, the birth and the long-haul endurance race of breastfeeding twins. The answer was simple, clear even, and I knew I couldn’t go back to work, couldn’t spin one more plate even if I wanted to.
Still, I waffled, circling the kitchen in the evening while cooking dinner. I peppered my wary husband with questions and arguments, offering different angles to consider and repeating again and again the questions, “I can’t do this, can I?” and “Am I crazy to even think of going back to work?”
My husband wisely kept to neutral ground while voicing his support for “whatever I decided to do.”
I reached a decision, though I still could hardly speak of it, and told our main pastor. I tearfully wrote a letter of resignation and headed to the board meeting where I would make my big announcement. I got there early, my typed letters laying lightly in a bag at my side and sat down directly across from my friend, the senior pastor, who asked one more time, “Are you sure, you want to be done?”
It was a simple question, probably more for the sake of conversation than real inquiry, but I felt its pull like gravity. In that moment I felt my need to be needed, my love of work, my desire to be important, all of those rose to meet the question and I paused as any addict might when confronted with a whiff, a glimpse of that which he or she has decided to renounce.
Then a vision came, brief and vibrantly clear, like a flash in my mind. I saw a donkey standing in a field beside a heavy yoke that lay in the grass. At the same time, while seeing the yoke and feeling the familiar pull of my old job, I also saw the sunlit field, which lay like a colorful quilt spread beneath a bright blue sky. The field was filled with flowers, a joyful, chaotic display of beauty that stood like an invitation all around.
The clarity of the invitation - to set aside my "work" and simply explore that field in all it's beauty - helped me find the freedom to choose. There would be no condemnation if I chose to return to work, the donkey after all is a beast of burden, gifted at getting the job done. But suddenly I could see more than the work that needed to be done. I could see the field as more than a means to an end, more than just furrow after furrow of earth to turn for productivity’s sake. I saw the beauty and possibility; I saw it could be a place for resting, a place for savoring and enjoying, a place worth exploring rather than cultivating, if only for a season.
“Yes,” I said, “I’m sure,” though the tears still threatened to rise.
I've cried many times since making that decision, felt waves of grief rise up on Sunday mornings as I miss the pulpit and its power, as I miss the role and the joy of getting behind the plow with a team and getting things done. Yet I realize now that the work will always be there, but these precious beautiful flowers, oh my, they fade so quickly, I can hardly take them in and I don’t think I could live with myself if I missed even just one.
I made my choice and wherever you see a field of wild flowers, that’s where I’ll be, just wandering, waiting, breathing them in and, oh my, if this is your season to work, may God bless you in it, but do stop by from time to time and I’ll show you what I’ve found, what God keeps showing me out in this field of beauty and wonder.
Want to read more about the transition to being a mother of four? You might enjoy, The Blessing or Impossible. Follow this blog on facebook at A Field of Wild Flowers or on twitter @inthefieldswGod.
Photo credit: asergeev.com