Matters of the Heart

I just want to have everything figured out. I mean, really, it all seems very simple. Either we move forward or we don’t. It’s one or the other. I just don’t understand this indecision.

My friend’s email this morning struck a chord, bringing back to me the time in my life where she is now. The time when I seemed to be finally hitting my stride. My career as an editor of a magazine was taking off and dare I say my love life too. Or so it seemed.

There was this one pesky little problem hanging over me like an annoying cloud that teases you with the threat of rain yet no rain ever comes. It was the problem of indecisiveness. It was a problem on both my part and my boyfriend’s part as we tried to figure “us” out. Do we move forward together? Does that mean engagement? Then a wedding? Wait. Where do you see yourself in five years? Or how about just next year? Do you want to live on the Upper West side or Lower East side?

Let’s cut to the chase and get to the more important question. No, not the “do you want children” question. What I want to know is do you perhaps sometime in the near future see yourself living in a historic old house within commuting distance to Manhattan? (Yes, that was my burning question and I was surprised to learn that many people aren’t fond of the small windows, low ceilings and lack of closet space that charm me. Luckily, years later, and with a different beau, that question would be answered with one caveat. The home would not be in commuting distance to ANY big city or congested roads and that was fine by me.)

Now these questions were never actually discussed as two healthy adults should discuss. These were the questions silently swimming in our minds as we tried to figure out what I call “the matters of the heart”—those things we hold close to us, that make us who we are and that are often the very things that guide us and drive us, helping us move forward even when it seems we aren’t really going anywhere. The matters of the heart are unique—and sacred—to each of us, thus, making them tricky, if not complicated, for another to even begin understanding where it is you are coming from.imgres.jpg

And so I read my friend’s email over again not wanting to rush in too quickly with a response for I was once where she was. I remember many a seemingly helpful email from friends who thought they knew what was best for me. Again, matters of the heart are unique and sacred things. But their words didn’t do much to comfort or help me. Perhaps I wasn’t ready to hear or perhaps they weren’t the right words. Who knows? Again, matters of the heart are unique and sacred things. All I knew was that I wanted to make sure my words would be hopeful and helpful.

I sat there tapping my fingers on the keyboard but nothing hopeful and helpful was appearing on the screen before me. I hit the delete button and tried again. After doing this one too many times, I gave up. It was time to face the truth. I really didn’t know what to say to my friend that would give her the bright hope for tomorrow she was seeking. I thought about how disheartening it was to keep searching into the future and only seeing clouds. I was there once—and find myself there again at times. For even after finding the man who answered correctly my living in an old house question, life always presents you with next steps to take.

And perhaps those steps are not meant to be easy. Perhaps we are not given a crystal ball out of mercy and grace of not knowing exactly everything that will happen. Perhaps we are meant to take one faltering and indecisive step at a time, trusting not so much in the unique and sacred matters of the heart we think are guiding us, but trusting that the One who has placed that sacredness within us will not fail us. For if God lovingly calls us by name, then why let any unknowns in life rattle us or even drag us down?

And here is something else. Why do we even spend time hoping for another to understand us or for us to try to understand them? Have you ever driven yourself crazy with the question, “But what are they thinking?”

One time while peering into a cloudy future, I stumbled upon a devotion that I knew was God’s way of hitting me over the head with exactly what I needed. The devotion basically said each heart is intricate and only God knows exactly what is in each heart. We can try all we want to understand the other, but we will never fully get to the most private and intimate place. That place is reserved for the God who created us. All we need to do is place the unique and sacred matters of the heart (mine and yours) into God’s loving hands.

All of a sudden I began typing my reply to my friend…

God sees beyond our cloudy futures. And God has already made up his mind. He’s decided (thank goodness!) to never leave or forsake us. This I do know. The matters of the heart matter much to God. Trust the sacredness to the One who is Divine.

This Way of Life: A Little White Church Lenten Journey

Day 6 and 7: Divine Dissatisfaction 

I was struggling, but those standing with me at coffee hour after church had no clue of my struggle. To them, I had it all. I had my dream job as a magazine editor in Manhattan, which often meant missed dinners with friends as I was called away on business trips to Italy or Switzerland or Thailand or Africa—places where the fine jewelry industry housed designer ateliers and dirt speckled with diamonds and precious gemstones.

I had my dream apartment—no studio here, but an actual one-bedroom apartment with no need for a roommate—complete with a doorman and a convenient midtown location so going uptown or downtown to try a new city hotspot was not a pricey cab ride.

I had a boyfriend. And I had a cat. I had it all…so it seemed to others. But I was struggling. All that I had was, for some reason, not filling my heart with this sense of peace and contentment. It got to the point where I had to speak to someone about this. And so I spoke to the associate pastor of the Fifth Avenue church I was attending.

I pulled her aside in the room coffee hour was being held and dangled out to her in guarded and cryptic words my struggle, trying not to get to deep over coffee and cookies. I didn’t think I was making sense and soon thought this was not a good idea to speak to the pastor at this time, but she seemed interested. She even seemed to understand my guarded and cryptic words. Perhaps she was once where I am now, I thought. Suddenly my interest in her backstory was piqued. After I was done speaking she nodded her head as if reminiscing back to some page in her scrapbook of life and with a twinkle of excitement in her eye that I couldn’t understand she told me what was going on with me.

“You are experiencing divine dissatisfaction,” she said.

“What?” I asked, finding her apparent glee for this not-so-fun place I was in a bit unsettling.

“Dissatisfaction that is divine,” she said as if switching the order of the words spoken would give me my “Ah-ha!” moment. It didn’t.

“What?” I said again.

She took my hand and led me to her office where she invited me to sit down. This was no longer a passing conversation to be had in the corner of the room where coffee hour was being held.

As I sat down in the chair my reporter senses kicked in and I quickly took inventory of her office. Some of the best stories of the subjects I have interviewed came not from what they told me, but of the story the décor and trinkets and pictures in the office told. Her story was emerging and, unknowingly to me, so was mine.

Kim was her name and she was just a few years older than me. She was from down south and came to the big city to become a professional dancer. And dance she did, performing with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre. That explained to me why she had the lithe body of a dancer.

Dance and her African heritage blended beautifully and when she came to New York City she thought her heart would never stop dancing with joy for the answered prayers she had received.

One day, though, her heart stopped dancing with joy. The steps she took to the music were not feeling right. She struggled. Those around her had no idea. Her friends thought she had it all.

One morning as she walked to the dance theatre, she kept on walking. She found a bench in front of a bus stop and sat. Just then she took out the Bible that had been thrown into her backpack for quite some time and never taken out. Hesitantly she opened it and she began to seek God. As she sought God’s will she began to see God had another dream for her—to tell the world of God’s goodness as a pastor. To the surprise of her friends and family, she announced she was entering seminary. And here she was sitting before me in her black clerical robe with an African inspired stole that I now noticed had images of women dancing in the joy of the Spirit.

“You have a gift and a passion for communicating through the words you put down on paper,” she said. “Perhaps those words are not to be of jewelry anymore. Perhaps those words are to be of something more precious and more beautiful.”

“Divine dissatisfaction,” I whispered now understanding what she meant. She was speaking of a dissatisfaction that is often God’s way of getting our attention to the new things God has for us. For with God there are always new dreams to pursue.

I opened my bag and scrounged around deep to the bottom and pulled out my pocket Bible that I had always carried but never opened.

I opened it now, and the hands of a former dancer turned big city pastor and a soon to be former magazine editor turned accidental country pastor of a little white church clasped together tightly. Two women, two stories, two dreams realized and yet to realize…and we prayed.  We thanked God for those beautiful unsettling moments known as divine dissatisfaction in our lives, for they are the moments that lead us in becoming all we are meant to become.

This Way of Life Lenten Challenge: Lent is the perfect season to explore the areas of dissatisfaction in your life. For perhaps it is a case of divine dissatisfaction and God is trying to awaken you to a new dream waiting for you.