If God recognizes our voices by how we start our prayers, He knows mine by “Should I…”
Should I go back to work? Stay home? Should I write more? Quit? Should I use my degree to make money? Should I reinvent myself altogether?
These are my “Should I’s” from recent months, in anticipation of September 12th, my baby girl’s first day of kindergarten. This milestone of motherhood, even when coated in layers of intention and acceptance, feels like the womb after birth, the fullest kind of void. It also bleeds questions. For me: What should I do with this new time?
God’s answers came in the way they often do: whispery invitations that are incomplete but clear, leaving no room for me to claim confusion and take over the reins. He didn’t nudge me to start a new career or fill up my schedule with volunteer work. Instead, he asked me to keep doing what I am doing: working from home, writing, being a mom.
And this is exactly what I wanted.
So, imagine my surprise when, as sun-tired maples hint of gold and late August breezes carry the promise of change, all I can seem to pray is, “What if?”
What if I am lonely? What if I feel unproductive? What if my business fails and I hate what I write? What if I have too much time?
There. I said it. Too much time. Who worries about that? As a mom of two school-aged kids, aren’t I supposed to be a slave to busyness? Instead, I’m a skeptic of divinely drawn space in my life. How can this be? I’m tempted to think it’s just me, but don’t we all wonder what will really happen to us when we slow down? Wouldn’t we all rather leave seasons of exposure to the brave, willing maple trees?
While a rhythm more in line with our souls is what we crave, we don’t really know how to do it. White space on the calendar can become more fuel for our shame, a new invitation for productivity’s pressure to weigh down our worthiness, and a breeding ground for yeses born from unhealthy places.
Space – even when desired and divine – is unknown. I don’t know what will happen when I spend six hours a day with myself. How will I feel? What might I discover? I do know how to keep sixteen balls in the air, work hard, build a career, and be my own version of Superwoman. But, parenting without knowing how it will turn out, working without a boss patting me on the back, writing without big, measurable goals – these are what draw me to my “What if?” knees.
Still, it feels like progress. Not long ago, I would have met September’s uncertainty with controlling avoidance, the kind that looks like searching for jobs, roles or titles. I would have crowded out the space before I had it.
Of course, I wish I had more faith about the unknown, and I would love to feel nothing but thankful for my answered prayers. After all, I did get exactly what I wanted. But every time we choose, “What if?” instead of control, it’s growth. Every time we act on what is clear instead of waiting for complete, it’s practicing faith.
So I keep on praying, “What if?” And I imagine God smiling at my changing voice.