This time last year, my family and I pulled into our driveway after an epic month-long road trip: we drove from Phoenix to New York and back, stopping throughout the country to visit friends and taste of local cultures, luxuriating with family, and frolicking at Hamptons beaches.
It was the end of an era for me; my university teaching career steered toward a new staff position, and I spent my final summer break living free.
When 2016 began, I dove headlong into this new position, in which I’m the only person on the team, and I internally prepared myself for the loss of spring and summer breaks. By April, I found myself fatigued, restless, and wanting. Distance and unforeseen circumstances prevented normal engagement with my community, and I found myself slipping away.
I’m too invested in (hashtag) adulting and ministry to slip entirely away, so I found a counselor (the story of how I’ll tell another time). It’s astonishing how the artless act of sharing revitalizes an extrovert. It turns out, from Dr. Amazing’s perspective, I’m entirely intact and flourishing. I just needed to go forward.
So I did: straight into my deepest need. I began reaching out and responding to women and, so long as it was an evening or lunch near my workplace, I proceeded to have once, twice, and sometimes thrice weekly dates. From women I’d connected with at Prism events, to colleagues at the office, to friends returned to the Valley, to women who emailed to say they found me online and wanted to meet, the gatherings restored my humanity—my faith in myself, really.
No one—extrovert or introvert—can go at it alone. We’re built for community; we’re created for heaven. In my acknowledging a real yet unmet need within me, I was able to redeem my time. Getting to know other women, and feeling heard in return, wasn’t the vacation I wanted or needed, but it was the recourse required for me to not fall into self-doubt, depression, or acrimony.
We must listen to ourselves and recognize that our emotions are God-given—and many times God-ordained. They sometimes speak louder than we can—and amygdala hijackings are never any fun.
We’ve also allowed a cultural status quo to hoodwink an intricately envisioned church: instead of meeting weekly and congregating to focus our sole attention on those on stage, we were meant to connect—to be personal—and the proof is written across Jesus’ journey:
He diverted course to chat (scandalous!) near a well with a foreign woman of questionable morals, who knew her sin and carried a heavier weight of shame than water.
He halted a crowd to seek out a woman who touched his clothes because she needed him desperately.
He sat in a room of his own, amidst the haughty glare of a wayward disciple, and welcomed the spikenard from a woman’s alabaster cruse: it trickled warm down his face and dripped from his beard.
To the first, he acknowledged her humanity—her need to belong.
To the second, he took her pain and made her whole again.
To the last, he honored the Spirit’s prompting within her to anoint a king.
Jesus sees and hears women. He honors our need, restores our faith, and recognizes our ability. The only action these women took was to step out—go forward—in duty, in desperation, in obedience.
This summer I take with me my spoils of an absent holiday redeemed. I lost nothing in my admission that I didn’t actually need a vacation: I needed conversation, solidarity, the comfort of knowing I wasn’t alone.
And like He does, Jesus gave me these, and I take them with me now into a new semester, a season refreshed by the girls of summer.