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  • Writer's pictureMennonite Women USA

So Be It

I sat in silence with my spiritual director, the scent of a vanilla candle soothing the ache in my soul. Grief had embedded itself and was reluctant to release its hold on me. Today the invitation was to celebrate each career stage as a gift, give thanks for it, and let it go. Tears trickled as I forced my hands to lay open on my lap.


I remembered easilymy first career, pouring out my life for classrooms filled with first grade children; then the pouring of myself into the home daycare I hosted when my sons were young; later, the joy, challenges and adventure of pouring myself into mission activities for eleven years in Wales while raising a family; and finally the nine years of pouring into a congregation I loved. Four plus decades of pouring. Pouring. Pouring.


Life had been rewarding and purposeful until chronic pain and anxiety began to impede the pouring. A plethora of doctors, medications, scans, medical tests, and alternative wellness routes had yielded minimal improvement. I resigned as an associate pastor hoping rest was the key to greater wholeness.


My spiritual director and counselors helped me peel back layers to reveal a zeal driven by the unholy trinity of pleasing, perfectionism, and performance that earned me the love and security I cherished. It was not that my heart and soul were absent from the pouring out, but the addiction to being needed and affirmed was stronger than the invitation to God’s gifts of sabbath, rest, and belovedness rooted in God’s love.


I assumed God had benched me for a needed time of reflection to deal with the unhealthy parts of my inner life. I pictured a return to wholeness and ministry.


But, sitting with my spiritual director on this particular morning, nearly a decade had passed. I was working part time as an in-home caregiver. The chronic pain and anxiety still companioned me.


I sat with the griefthe wonderful past and the dream for a similar future that wasn’t happening. How could I let it go?


Behind my closed eyes, Jesus showed up. He reached out a hand, and I realized he was pointing to a pitcher I was holding, asking permission to take it. I focused on the pitcher in my hands; felt the joy and satisfaction of it and the weight and weariness of pouring and pouring into so many upturned cups.


If I gave Jesus my pitcher, what would I have left? My hands would be empty.

But if I did not trust Jesus with this, would I ever have peace? Reluctantly, I extended the pitcher.


Jesus set it upon a shelf of other discarded pitchers. Perhaps he even murmured, “It is finished.” Then from another pottery shelf he withdrew a nondescript, earthen mug, rounded and smooth.


The mug felt at home in my hands. My spirit settled into an invitation to stop feeding the crowds and to attend to the one. Each client I cared for in their home was a ministry to the one. I was not in the spotlight, winning accolades for sermons or creativity or leadership or responsibility. I was with the one, loved the one, served the one, did basic tasks to make that one’s life more manageable. It seemed so little compared to my shining years. Now, I felt the “amen,” of it. So be it.


In Matthew 25, Jesus tells the parable of the sheep and goats, a parable that has been used to instill in good Christians the need to do, do, do, lest we be judged for shirking the needs around us. In the silence, the Holy Spirit brought to mind the “me” in verses 35 & 36, “ fed me, you gave me a drink, you invited me in, you gave me clothing, you cared for me, you visited me.” Then in verse 40, Jesus concludes, “...when you did it to one of the least of these, my brothers and sisters, you did it for me.” (NLT)


Me. One. Singular.


I live a quieter life now. I gave up caregiving last year when that got to be too much for my body, but the earthen mug and the “one” has stayed with me. Each day, I aim to be attentive to the one who is before me, in accordance with the strength God gives me, my husband, my aging parents, a friend or stranger.


It is not the life I dreamed of for this season, but it is the life God has given me. And my spirit says, “so be it.”

Cheryl Hollinger

James Street Mennonite Church, Lancaster, PA


Mennonite Women USA values what all women have to say and Women's Voices blog is a space to honor their words.

Posts are reviewed for tolerance and respect but don't necessarily reflect MW USA's official position.

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1 Comment

Phoebe Wiley
Phoebe Wiley
2 days ago

I can so relate to your grief. For much of my life, I felt the need to do and do and do. I grew up feeling that no matter what I did, I would never measure up. I ran away into work when I was feeling emotional pain. I tried to earn brownie points with God. Not until I was teaching courses in a women’s prison did I discover that beautiful verse in Ephesians 2:10. “For we are God’s handiwork., created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” I love that verse because God knows my frame. He remembers that I am dust. He gave me the gifts I hav…

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