We set off in June from the only home our children knew. We left an international concrete jungle and arrived at a Pacific Northwest house we rented off Craigslist, sight unseen, but for the large pine trees and lime-green grass in the photos. Without knowing a soul, we enjoyed the space of a new city, a new season, and an empty house while we waited 3 months for our shipment to clear customs.
Our focus was singular: go to grad school. Everything else was completely blurry. We left a very clear mission that had defined a decade with nothing more than a pulsing desire. It was clear God had said it’s time to leave. Only his voice could have severed us from the height of our careers. So, we unmoored and set sail straight into fog. We knew we were going in the right direction, but had no idea what was on the horizon. Where would grad school take us? Who would we meet? What would we learn? Who would we become?
It’s a scary thing to do in your mid-thirties. Start over. Scarier still to wait for 3 years for the fog to lift. Now what, Lord? But it did. It lifted just as the answers to all those questions came flooding over us. A clear mission immerged and we sailed and docked again.
There is little else that feels so freeing as a dream clearly defined.
And here I am, approaching a decade later. Now close to my mid-forties and sensing a familiar call. That compelling, pulsing hand, nudging me toward the fog.
Surprisingly, I am not alone, here in mid-life teetering on a reset.
In the last few weeks, I’ve talked with several women my age who have already unmoored and are thick in the fog. God clearly called them to set sail, but they have no sense of where they’re headed. It seems foolish, to abandon economic stability and expertise, with children to feed, hands outstretched. Now what, Lord?
I want to advise them to wait. Wait until something else is lined up, at least in the meantime. And then I remember hocking coins on Ebay, cleaning people’s homes, nannying other children to follow God in my “meantime”. There is freedom in the fog when you know with whom you sail.
And that right there – that is how I know the nudge is the Spirit. When the staying feels scarier than the going. When the dock is constraining, no longer a dream defined, but a story nearing its end, it is time.
Yet, seemingly foolish. We worked hard to learn the language, expand our team, and strategize growth in that concrete jungle. Why would we leave? I’ve worked hard to build a movement, galvanize my community, and become a content expert. Why would I leave? We leave when we know whose pulsing hand it is. And we have come to know that true freedom is in the moving with it, not against it.
For all my fellow sailors, looking out at the fog, still moored to the dock, doubting what you’re about to do – those leaving thriving church ministries, language-ready missions, career-advancing positions, organizations you’ve founded, groups you are deeply embedded in, neighborhood schools you’ve loved, or a community that was life-giving – is it time to leave? If a pulsing hand has brought you here, and the pounding in your chest is deafening, God may be calling you to write a new story.
Here is what I know: there is as much joy and release in the fog as there is anxiety. And the one who sails alongside you is a crazy Captain who plays on water. Take heart dear one. As Janet Chester Bly so beautifully penned,
“I would rather
clutch my invitation
And wait my turn in party clothes
Prim and proper
Safe and clean
A pulsing hand keeps driving me over
Peaks, ravines and spidered brambles
So I will pant up to the pearled knocker
And full of tales.”
“Breathless Tales” Alive Now!, March/April, 1982, 11
Beth is founder and director of A Face to Reframe, a non-profit committed to preventing human trafficking through arts, training, and community building. She writes about women in ministry, girls becoming women, and exploited women. Author of A Voice of Becoming, Beth can be found at www.bethbruno.org