I have come to see God at work in my life, as I believe He is at work in all of our lives. For me, my journey to France has been part of that. One thing that God asks of us–and this seems to be consistent across faith traditions–is to do the hard work of changing our patterns. In some traditions this process is called “repentance.” In others it is called “awakening.” But what is common in all traditions is that there is an old self (or ego, or natural man) that needs to be left behind, and a new self that needs to emerge.
We inherit a lot of patterns from our families and communities that impact our ways of engaging with the world. In some cases these patterns will be beneficial, and in other cases they will be detrimental. Or maybe a mix.
These inherited patterns are often hard to see–at least they have been for me. It has taken intentional work and a lot of courage to face some of the patterns that have cast long shadows through generations of my family. These include things like avoiding hard conversations, having a dysfunctional relationship with money, and procrastinating health care, among others.
There are good and wonderful patterns in my family too–a culture of unconditional love and acceptance, a tradition of service and generosity, deep faith, and authenticity. These are legacies that I want to preserve.
Then there are the personal patterns that we create for ourselves–our good habits and our bad habits. These include things like our practices of caring for ourselves and others. Our work ethic. Our studies. Our mindset. How we approach sleep. Our relationship with food. And the list goes on.
Relationships bring their own set of patterns. Relationships that are built on healthy patterns can be joyful and nurturing. Relationships that are build on toxic patterns can bring a lot of pain. And sometimes there is a mix–where a relationship has a lot of good things AND elements of toxicity. It can be hard to know what to do in these mixed-bag relationships–especially when you are ready to face toxic patterns and the other person is not. One thing I have learned the hard way is that you can’t force other people into an awakening. They must come to it at their own time (which may never come). In the meantime, you may need to leave the relationship for your own wellness, which can be really hard and sad.
A Change of Scenery
You may be asking yourself, what does any of this have to do with France? Good question! The short story is that in all of this pattern shattering and re-making, a change of scenery really helps. Because there needs to be a Sorting. You need to decide what patterns you want to keep in your life, and which ones you are ready to release. Seeing the world from a new vantage point provides a lot of perspective in this process.
God wants to help us create good patterns–patterns of love, abundance, joy, service, and generosity. He provides experiences that will help us in this process. Sometimes these experiences are wonderful and may involve wandering in new places–maybe France! And sometimes these are deeply painful and will break our hearts. For me, recent painful experiences have included losing my dad, a breast cancer journey, walking away from cherished friendships, and shedding parts of my identity. I can see now that it was really important that the healing journey came after the year of heartbreak, even though at the time everything felt chaotic and out of control.
I have come to know that God is mindful of us, there is an order to things even if it isn’t our order, and if we will have faith in this process, it will all work together for our good.
For more about my journey, read Covid, Cancer, and Liminal Space.