Through much of my adult life, I’ve wondered what the heck all those high school aptitude tests meant when they said I should be a minister and writer. My journey has been the opposite of one-two-three steps toward success, more than a few setbacks because of personal choices and circumstances outside my control. I set aside my vocation, in early adulthood, to support my former spouse’s career including 14 moves across country, overseas and back to the States. That marriage unraveled when he decided to marry someone else. Circumstances required moving from Boston back to Boise, and living with my parents, when money ran out for finishing grad school. That year, my mom needed help caring for my Dad before he succumbed to complications of Multiple Sclerosis. I could hardly process those events fast enough and keep up with my bills. More than a few times, I echoed Teresa of Avila’s sentiments: “Dear Lord, if this is how You treat Your friends, it is no wonder You have so few!”
I’d completed two-thirds of seminary and had no idea how I’d finish thirty more credits (to graduate). In light of setbacks, I wondered if I’d been mistaken. Might I have gotten it all wrong? Perhaps I wasn’t supposed to be a minister or writer. Vaguely, I recalled standing on the veranda of my family’s house, at eight, hearing my Mom tell a story of a man whom God had offered anything in the world (2 Chronicles 1:7-10). “You know, Amy,” Mom said, “it’s better to ask God for wisdom than success.” I would soon learn that our family would lose our home due to my father’s inability to work, an insurance company’s failure to cover medical expenses, and an economic downturn. In that space of desperation, and powerlessness, something about her words seemed right. Wisdom. Yes. I hadn’t a clue what it was, back then, but it seemed right to start asking for it. For some reason—probably because of Aesop, Nancy Drew and Jesus—I also started asking God to make me a writer.
I don’t consider myself someone of great faith, but when I’m desperate, I turn to God with greater earnestness. Heaven knows I’ve given into discouragement. At times, I’ve even wondered if God has allowed so many obstacles in my life because I occupy a remedial class, spiritually speaking. Then God has whispered: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Cor. 12:9a
To this day, the math doesn’t add up. My family managed medical bills through years of chronic illness before my Dad’s passing. Divorce and years of singleness took a toll, but life continued. Somehow—by God’s grace—I finished seminary. I met and married a widower and adopted his two daughters. Our family has relocated from the Pacific Northwest to the Florida Gulf Coast surrounded by water, funny looking birds, and wildly painted fish. Just when I’d nearly stopped hoping, time and space began opening for writing and ministry.
Grad school opened a trickle of opportunities, and one thing has led to another. When I think about why I haven’t given up, I know it’s because of those who have earnestly walked beside me even when I doubted; those who have reassured me of God’s acceptance and continuing grace; they have shown me God’s face. Family, good friends, and mentors have helped me through the process of owning my calling and finding my voice. But mostly that has happened in dark and desperate places that have required leaning—truly leaning—into the strength of God’s Presence.
Successes and failures don’t weigh as much as they used to. After seeing so much go wrong, and the unexpected ways God has redirected my path, I’ve become bolder about asking for more than I used to in life, especially my career. Sometimes I hear “yes.” Other times I hear “no.” I don’t think that hearing “no” will ever be easy, but I’m learning to frame each one like a road sign pointing a new direction toward God’s “yes.”
How have you seen God show up as you have navigated periods in the wilderness? How have others supported you on the journey?
Amy R. Buckley, 2014.