Is There Rest In Flourishing?
Updated: Sep 13
I turned 35 today, and much like the literal New Year I turn to reflection. What was my 34th year like? What did I accomplish? What did I do well? Who did I love well? How did I grow or change? Even, the reflection of physical changes...some extra pounds, a few more gray wisdom hairs, and forehead wrinkles found in my mirror reflection. I'm 5 years from 40 and still not where I thought I would be in my career and book writing. Yet, God's long way route much like He took Moses and the Israelites into the Promise Land for their protection and for His perfect plan...I believe that's true for me too.
Life rarely looks as we plan it, right? There are proverbial hills and valleys we don't anticipate. Even when we know God's promises for us are felt deep within our souls, we humans make an earthly direct plan of a pathway. However, most often He doesn't work like that. His ways are not our ways. Grasping for control of those plans and whining to go back to what was comfortable is what our hearts tend to do when we don't see what God is doing just yet, and where we are going.
So I'm sitting here questioning...what are you doing God? My word of 2022 was Flourish.
To me, that meant flourishing in my career, which finally felt perfectly suited to everything I enjoyed doing, serving people, creating healing things, and helping provide for my family.
And yet, God told me to walk away. For reasons I won't go into, I knew I had to walk away. It was a heartbreaking sacrifice to obey the Lord, walking away from a career I loved and friends I love, but in 18 years of loving Jesus, I know His blessings follow obedience. I know the torment of disobedience and I desperately sought peace for months prior. I do have peace with leaving but I still wrestle with this new reality of stillness (as much as a mother of 5 can be still). Life goes on. The movements to heal in the adoption and pro-life communities go on without me in them.
So how is this flourishing, I keep wondering? Maybe it will make sense in three more months as 2022 wraps up. But in the meantime, I'm wrestling with quietness. Fidgeting in the stillness unsure of what to do with myself as all my children are in school for the first time. In 15 years I haven't had a quiet day to myself regularly. I thought I would be working more, not none at all. In moments of fear and thinking, "I need to do something" I've pushed ahead too quickly onto the next thing. And yet-- I know what God is calling me to do first.
To be still in His presence. To rest. Why is that so hard?
He's told me over and over, through His word and prayer and through other believers, that it's time to rest. To figure out who I am-- outside of motherhood, outside of the title of "Leah the writer" or "Leah the adoption advocate"-- to simply "Leah the child of God."
Yet I've been confused because if this is a year of flourishing, why am I being called to rest?
Is there rest in flourishing?
A quick google search to see if someone has answered this question already revealed a New York Times article titled, "The Other Side of Languishing is Flourishing." It's about the effect of the pandemic on mental health (though I didn't pay the $1 to read it, just enjoyed the title). While the pandemic certainly impacted our world, in this personal season I would say the impact of ministry on my mental health has led to this languishing.
Languishing is a term I hadn't defined myself as, but it's fitting now that I'm looking at it. I'm not depressed, but I feel off and blah. I feel jaded. Untrusting. Wounded. Self-doubting. Questioning. Critical. Cynical. That isn't my normal posture of trusting and wanting to see the best in everyone, but I'm burned out from a year of pouring out.
So if on the other side of languishing is flourishing...perhaps God, per usual, knows what He is doing. Languishing is a process much like grief it seems, it needs space to feel. And to flourish I need to heal. I need rest in order to do that. Though it's not what I envisioned flourishing to be, He's the creator of creation. He knows the process far better than I. In doing so, He's calling me to a deeper-rooted faith and understanding of who I am in Him. As a daffodil bulb awaits in the darkness of the soil each winter, resting, waiting for the warm spring to beckon a bloom-- as am I.
Perhaps, I need a new understanding of what flourishing is. It isn't simply accomplishments or titles or identity in doing something good. It isn't simply beauty and progress.
Dr. Lynn Soots defines flourishing as,
“The product of the pursuit and engagement of an authentic life that brings inner joy and happiness through meeting goals, being connected with life passions, and relishing in accomplishments through the peaks and valleys of life.”
And what does God say about flourishing?
"They are planted in the house of the Lord; they flourish in the courts of our God."
"The house of the wicked will be destroyed, but the tent of the upright will flourish."
“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.”
Perhaps my view of flourishing was too narrow. Perhaps, I only saw in my mind the end result of a beautiful flower basking in the sunshine, forgetting that authentic growth and beauty come even in the rain storms, the trampling under feet. Flourishing is thriving fruit growing despite the hard moments in life, despite the drought.
So yes, I believe flourishing can be launched out of resting. Resting is a result of trusting the Lord, surrendering the striving for His timing and His ways, His provision, and His plans.
And so that is what I will do.