Older, But Not Much Wiser

My “drifting years” ended in my mid-twenties when I started getting this sense that I my life wasn’t quite right.  I began to question my purpose, and I missed that calmness I had when I accepted Christ as a child.  There had to be more planned for me than working entry-level insurance jobs (not using my Bachelor’s degree).   I took several insurance classes and earned an insurance designation, but the feeling didn’t go away.

When we found a church that felt comfortable, I explored volunteer opportunities, looking for whatever was missing from my life.  I’m not skilled at social interaction (as explained in I’m Better on Paper) so I felt awkward and out of place. Eventually, I quit the committees.  I wished that God would play the Hot/Cold game to help me find my purpose in life because I didn’t know how else I’d figure it out.

There have been periods of time where we haven’t gone to church.  I don’t think a person has to go to church to believe in God, but for me, going to church forces me to look deeper into scriptures that I don’t read on my own.  The act of worshiping God through the music makes me feel closer to Him – much like weekly visits or conversations with my parents strengthens my bond with them.

The absence of church didn’t cause my personality to drastically change.  To the world, I imagine I looked the same, but I felt different; distant.  Looking back, I see why I felt this way:  I didn’t make any attempt to build the relationship on my own time, so it never stood a chance.

The need to evaluate my spiritual life (or lack thereof) surfaced soon after my grandma passed away in November.  It was just before Thanksgiving and my family came together at the hospice building.  We were all grieving and tired – not just from the day, but from the roller coaster of emotions from her illnesses.  (She was in congestive heart failure, had fluid in her lungs, and Alzheimer’s was getting worse by the day.)  I was relieved to discover we had a mission; something to keep my mind occupied.

My grandma had written her funeral and burial wishes in a family Bible.  Based on her memory of the book as she saw it in the early nineties, my mom described it as best she could:  large, dark covered and with a family tree near the beginning.  I like to write mysteries, so I imagined myself as one of my characters searching for a crucial clue.  

We entered my grandparents’ house, which had been uninhabited and eerily untouched since my grandpa’s death five years ago.  There were stacks and stacks of Bibles.  I didn’t count them, but there were easily forty of them.  Some were old and tattered; others were newer with fancy covers.  All of them had handwritten notes, but none were “the one.”  We searched through shelves of study books, inspirational textbooks and guides but left empty-handed hours later.

What I saw in those heaps of books was a lifetime of devotion to God.  A life spent studying, learning and building a strong relationship with Him.  I realized that although I am a believer, I have done nothing to walk closer with God.  The two Bibles on my own bookshelf had not been opened in years.  Never had I considered purchasing books to assist in my understanding of His word.  I had to admit that if I showed this lack of initiative in an earthly relationship, it surely would have withered and died.

This, I think, is one of the elusive signs I had been begging for him to reveal to me for several years.  It’s possible that He gave me the message before, but I was looking the other way.  I’m paying attention now and my first reading is Know Why You Believe by Paul Little. 

Why that book?  It was one of three book titles mentioned by our pastor in a Sunday sermon.  I normally don’t take notes, but my hand was compelled to reach into my purse, pull out a pen and scribble them onto the program.

Recommended reading notes from pastor's message

What I find even more interesting is that this sermon was on October 31st, nearly a month before my grandma passed away; four weeks before I first recognized that my spiritual life needed attention.  I looked up the books online so I could budget my purchases and then tucked away (ignored) the paper.  I made my first purchase in mid-December.

Yes, I admit that I am a bit blind, but if the signs are obvious enough, I might see them.

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28 thoughts on “Older, But Not Much Wiser

  1. Carol Ann Hoel February 13, 2011 / 6:36 AM

    Beautiful post about your longing for God and your humanity that held you back until you made up your mind to break free. Travel the high road. You are blessed, Janna…

    • jannatwrites February 13, 2011 / 1:40 PM

      Thank you for your support, Carol Ann. I want to keep my focus and not get lazy again. It’s strange how many things I don’t reallize while I’m living it, but can see at some point in the future.

  2. Aligaeta February 13, 2011 / 7:01 AM

    I love that in “getting” the message, you “had” the answer. It was there waiting for you.

    • jannatwrites February 13, 2011 / 1:45 PM

      Thanks, Aligaeta. When I was preparing this post, I noticed the date on the church program was before my grandma passed away. The last few months have blurred, so my mind placed that Sunday as occurring AFTER her death – because it was logical that I’d be looking for reading material at that time. Strange.

      I wonder how many other messages I’ve been blind to along the way? I do hope acknowledging this will help me keep my heart open in the future.

  3. Debbie February 13, 2011 / 8:09 AM

    It’s like that old commercial says: “If you feel that God is far away, take a look at who moved!” Blessings as you embark on the best journey of your life!

    • jannatwrites February 13, 2011 / 2:00 PM

      Thanks for your nice comment, Debbie! Your commercial quote is so true. Now that I’ve recognized where I am, I hope I can stay on course 🙂

  4. pattyabr February 13, 2011 / 8:45 AM

    I do believe in fate. And we get the answers we need when we are open to them. Keep journeying.

    • jannatwrites February 13, 2011 / 2:37 PM

      You’ve gotten right to the point – we have to open to finding the answers. Sometimes that’s hard. Thanks for your support, Patty.

  5. duke1959 February 13, 2011 / 9:13 AM

    How touching. Things do happen for a reason.

    • jannatwrites February 13, 2011 / 2:38 PM

      They sure do, Duke. It’s always nice when the reasons can be recognized, but that’s not always the case.

  6. knotrune February 13, 2011 / 9:20 AM

    I don’t know that book, but I enjoyed reading Lee Strobel.
    I have a tendency to buy and read books about whatever I am into. Books on how to write novels; books on how to crochet, make little boxes or whatever; books about how to get my PhD… So I have plenty of books about God. I’ve even read some of them… 🙂

    I like your analogy of spending time with parents; it’s just like getting letters from home. And just like family can sometimes feel like a duty, Bible reading can too. But when the letter is from a much loved relative rather than that aunt who’s always criticising you, or whatever, it is a joy to read. Some bits of the Bible sound more than annoying aunt, it’s true, but she still loves you and just wants what’s best for you 🙂 at least, God does. Maybe the aunt is just a pain… 😉

    • jannatwrites February 13, 2011 / 2:41 PM

      You are funny, though – I have a shelf of books that I haven’t read yet, too! I look forward to getting to the Lee Strobel books. It takes me a lot longer to read nonfiction than fiction so I don’t have a guess when that will be 🙂

      Love the addition of the annoying aunt into the Bible/family analogy. Great for a laugh! Thanks for your fun comment, knotrune 🙂

  7. Artswebshow February 13, 2011 / 10:44 AM

    Seems like you are finding your way now.
    My way seems less concerned about higher power than you.
    But belief is important and we should aspire to strengthen those beliefs any way we can.
    Great post here

    • jannatwrites February 13, 2011 / 2:43 PM

      Well, I may be on the right path, but I’m pretty sure I’ll stumble now and then. Belief is important and helps to find some meaning in our existence. I’m glad you stopped by and enjoyed the post 🙂

  8. widdershins February 13, 2011 / 5:44 PM

    Did you ever find the ‘one’?

    • jannatwrites February 13, 2011 / 8:24 PM

      No, we didn’t. With the Alzheimer’s that Bible could be anywhere. She had a beautiful funeral anyway that I think was in line with what her wishes would have been.

  9. Addy February 13, 2011 / 10:58 PM

    Great post Janna… Although I too am quite “distant” to God, in my opinion I feel much more relaxed.. Although I do pray, I don’t necessarily feel the need to visit a temple to prove anything.. Belief is something that stands on valtile ground, one minor shake and you fall flat on your face…

    Best Wishes,
    Addy

    • jannatwrites February 14, 2011 / 8:31 PM

      I suppose your inner feelings would determine if your closeness (or distance) from God is adequate for you. Being that you feel relaxed, it seems the current relationship you have satisfies your needs right now. I don’t think proving something is a good reason to go to church. For me, the desire is from within and the benefits are for me personally. I have a good friend who doesn’t attend a church because she hasn’t found one she likes. Instead, she reads daily devotionals and discusses with friends/family and that is working for her.

      Thank you for stopping by and sharing your thoughts on this post, Addy 🙂

  10. 2blu2btru February 14, 2011 / 7:44 AM

    God always manages to provide us with everything we need if we seek it. I think that the more I go to church, the more I get out of it, even if that week instead of an insight, it’s just an encouragement to continue on and keep seeking.

    • jannatwrites February 14, 2011 / 8:34 PM

      I agree with you, 2blu. My problem is that I can be lazy, so going to church does help me keep my focus. There’s not much I can add to your comment because you summed it up quite nicely 🙂

  11. nrhatch February 14, 2011 / 12:00 PM

    You said, “I wished that God would play the Hot/Cold game to help me find my purpose in life because I didn’t know how else I’d figure it out.”

    I think that is EXACTLY what God/Spirit does do:

    An SPS will not reveal the ultimate destination, answer us when we ask for certain information (such as “are we there yet?” or “how much longer?“), or tell us how to get from where we are to where we want to be.

    Instead, it merely signals when we have gone off course. It’s like that child-hood game we played:

    You’re getting warmer . . . warmer . . . warmer . . . colder . . . colder . . . oh, wow . . . you’re freezing.

    If you’re enjoying yourself, you’re getting warmer. If you’re not enjoying yourself, you need to make a course correction.

    http://nrhatch.wordpress.com/2010/07/25/youre-getting-warmer/

    • jannatwrites February 14, 2011 / 8:58 PM

      You’re right, Nancy, it is that game in a sense. I should have clarified that I was looking for more immediate feedback on my direction. As it is, it can take me months or years to figure out I’m not where I should be.

      I agree that monitoring our internal feelings serves as a good compass.

      As always, thanks for your insightful thoughts 🙂

  12. J. P. Cabit February 14, 2011 / 7:22 PM

    I have a plant called my “Desert plant,” and I’ve had it for years. But it’s only grown a few inches since I got it. Why do I call it my Desert Plant? Because I go for several months at a time without watering it, but still it lives on. This thing is amazing! Our relationship with God can be like this Desert Plant… Even though we don’t tend to it for a long time, it’s still there when we’re ready…

    • jannatwrites February 14, 2011 / 9:41 PM

      Love the analogy, J.P. It fits the situation so well. Just imagine how much we’d grow if we fostered the relationship all the time and there were no worshipping droughts.

  13. J. P. Cabit February 14, 2011 / 7:23 PM

    Oh and by the bye, you might want to turn that whole search-for-the-Bible thing into an epic mystery story…sounds like a nice setup!

    • jannatwrites February 14, 2011 / 9:44 PM

      No kidding! I’d love to know where it is. She had Alzheimers, so she could’ve given it away or put it in a place that seemed logical to her. It could even be hidden in my parent’s house without their knowledge because she did live there for the last several years…

      • J. P. Cabit February 15, 2011 / 10:39 AM

        That would be cool to find it someday.

        • jannatwrites February 15, 2011 / 10:06 PM

          Yes, JP, it would be nice!

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