My boss called me out the other day. It was in gentle way, and very much needed.
I stumbled into my current role with a local non-profit organization here in Austin. Like most non-profits so much relies on donations and volunteers, not unlike a church. The only problem is, that when my responsibilities require I recruit resources or people, I feel extremely limited. Before we moved I could always lean on a group of friends, a small group, or a kindly worded plea from the stage. When I first moved here, none of those existed in my sphere.
Anyone remember “Open in Austin?” how this whole jennifermazzola.com thing got started? I can remember one of my earliest posts regarding being put in a position to find volunteers and hit an attendance goal for an event when I knew no one. I remember thinking, “it’s been a very long time since I have been in a position where literally only God can pull something off.” It was a good season for me to walk through.
Now I’m in a different season. And that is what my boss was correcting. After stating once again, something to the effect of “I don’t know anyone,” my boss spoke up, “As a friend I need to tell you something. You have been here long enough to not use that any more. You have a network now, so you need to remember that.”
I think because I still don’t feel grounded or surrounded like I once was, I continue to fall back rather than press in. After he mentioned this I started to notice that I do this whole “I’m not really connected” thing in lots of places. So many. I hold back in this space or that out of fear. I do this dance around relationships and dynamics because I’m still just not quite comfortable. And I wonder what it would look like if I stopped all that, if I just let things unfold right where I am.
The alien/foreigner in Texas part of my story was real, but other chapters have evolved and I can easily default back to former scripts. Yes, I didn’t know anyone. That is not the case now. At first I wasn’t working. Early on I felt so lost, but if I keep acting like I have no clue where or who I am, how will things ever find me?
We get stuck in old ideas. We reread old chapters of our lives. Sometimes out of fear of what the new would require, or worry about how new things might now work out. Sometimes it’s easier to tell the same stories and re-live the same moments than explore new scenes and accept new possibilities. We do this in all sorts of ways. We tell old stories about ourselves, insist that others can only be old versions of themselves, project on to groups and communities old narratives that worked for a time. But maybe things are different, or maybe they can be.
Stories and ideas serve a purpose, they create future realities, so when we are on repeat, a broken record, the potential for change is greatly diminished. And God doesn’t love us like that. The whole “new creation” point is real, not because what was is terrible (even though sometimes it is), and not because God is unaware of how those old seasons and old moments shaped you, but because God is interested in what is new, what is on the horizon. We love the idea of God casting our sins “as far as from the East is to the West,” yet we struggle to allow the old versions of ourselves or others to distance themselves.
One of my favorite passages from Isaiah:
“See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland.”
It’s that perception that I allow to get hazy, to become timid, to dull. I’m not the maker of the new things, I’m not the maker of the way through wastelands or wilderness. But I want to be perceptive. I want to be aware. So if you hear me speaking in present tense with past stories, love me enough to point that out.