As I’ve stepped into this time of transition, I have been looking for a suitable metaphor to carry with it the feelings I’ve been experiencing as I try to navigate the changes that have been suddenly, and without warning, dumped on my head. Normally, when we think of the expression, being on a “slippery slope”, we have a negative connotation of making a string of poor choices which bring us to a place, or a “slippery slope” where we suddenly find ourselves unable to turn back, or to avoid the negative consequences which will inevitably grow out of those poor choices. One poor choice forces us into another choice, and another, which quickly bring us to a point where we are doing things we would have never imagined possible only a short time earlier.
While that’s certainly a very true use of the metaphor—one which we unfortunately see repeated all too often around us—it’s hardly the only situation where we find ourselves in a place where we have lost control of our world, and we see ourselves spinning and tumbling toward a future which we might not have chosen for ourselves, complete with countless bruises and scrapes along the way! Sometimes those “poor choices”, or perhaps just plain “choices”, poor or otherwise, may not have been ours, but were made by others around us. Sometimes it’s simply a consequence of the seemingly random forces of life and nature around us, be it a physical storm cloud, or the convoluted twists and turns of economics and politics. Whatever the trigger might be though, we are pushed into a series of events, choices, pains, broken relationships, changes in outlook, and life consequences which forever change us, or the world around us. Things we used to depend on as anchor points, or at least comfortable hand-holds, are stripped away. Assumptions which we always used to take for granted are shattered. We suddenly gain new understanding for the euphemism of, “the world being turned upside down.”
But… here’s the interesting part. The change, no matter how uncomfortable or unsettling, does not have to be negative. While we are in the middle of tumbling down the slope, we scream and cry and beat our chests and complain of all the shattered bits and pieces of our lives we see tumbling down the slope with us. Sometimes the losses are very, very real, such as losing deep friends, or gifts and ministries which seem to blow away like dust in the wind. However, when we tumble out at the bottom, and the dust settles, we discover that we are still alive, and there is still a light ahead of us, even if it is very distant and dim. It may take time to heal the broken bones, and some scars may never completely heal, but we find that we are not without hope.
To bring this experience out of the tidy world of theory and metaphor, my own personal “slippery slope” is the fact that, after working in the field of computers and IT for close to 40 years, and with the IT department of the missions agency where I have worked for almost 8 years, my IT job function has been outsourced to an outside organization, with the result that my gifts and skills as a computer and technology professional are no longer necessary. The reality of my situation is hardly unique, as I know many people who have, due to no fault of their own, suddenly found their services to be redundant, irrelevant, or just no longer needed, and they have found themselves suddenly (and unceremoniously) on the street. Still, as it is with all our problems, my problems are my problems, and they are the ones looking at me in my face. While it’s never helpful to sit and feel sorry for myself, trying to say that I should glad that my problems aren’t as bad as so-and-so’s problems does nothing to help me navigate the road ahead.
Still, as I find myself hurtling down that slope, banging my head on the rocks, trying to flail around to catch myself or even get a sense of which direction I’m pointing, I have this sense that I am not without hope, and in an ironic sort of way, I almost feel like I’m falling up instead of down.
You see, I have long been on a journey toward releasing this gift of Art which God has planted inside of me. While I have always loved working with computers and technology, and especially with the ministry of bending that technology to serve those around me and to enable their ministry, I have had this steadily growing voice in my head and heart telling me that it was time for a change in direction, a new season (to lean on an overused meme); a time to return to a calling on my life which, believe it or not, predates my fascination with mathematics and science and algorithms and blinking lights. As deeply rooted in my identity is my sense of geekdom and technology, my sense of being an artist goes even deeper. It is interesting, and illuminating, to go back in my memory and recount certain pivotal events in my life, and to see how much art and the gift of seeing the world as an artist was a part of those “lighthouse moments”.
So, I don’t have answers yet (as they say, “the situation at the moment is… fluid”), but I do have a keen sense that I am falling with a purpose. It is perhaps another overused meme that, “God is not surprised by the situation, even if we are,” but there is still truth in the statement. It is interesting to think back, even just a couple of days before I was completely blind-sided by this decision, and to recall one friend who just stopped by to chat, and how we both shared with each other about the difficulty of trusting God to follow the passion which we knew He had planted inside, to take the step off the edge of the cliff, to risk everything for the sake of putting our feet where our faith was. The signposts were all there, even if it’s only now that I can recognize them for what the were. I’m scared silly, but full of hope and excitement. The air is still full of dust so I can’t see everything ahead, but I am confident that the light will still be there when the dust does eventually settle.
I am not an adrenalin junkie, but this is definitely a crazy rush! 😛
The irritating bit about aphorisms are that they’re generally true – they wouldn’t have become aphorismiac unless they were.
Go in peace, to love and serve the Lord.