Dang Girl

I was recently inspired to start writing again.  Needless to say its been a while.  It’s been hard to find inspiration and the words to accurately portray the different thoughts and ideas bouncing around in my head.  I haven’t processed as much as I wanted, or created any clear and contrite plan for the rest of my life.  But today, in honor of being back from India for 3 months, I decided to write again.  It’s time to get back on the horse.

Coming back home after being gone for a while is a strange thing.  People have changed, lost weight, gained weight, cut their hairs, lost their hairs.  They’ve changed their houses, families, and careers.  The community has added stop signs and shrubbery in various places and painted buildings you never realized existed.  Every miniscule change you see feels big because it happened without you knowing it and without your input or permission.  And then there is the social challenge of trying to figure out where you fit in both with your family and with your friends.  People who have had months of memories and experiences together that you weren’t a part of, and at the same time, realizing that they were not a part of your recent experiences either.  Trying to integrate is no easy task.

For the past few months I have tried to figure out what happened to me while I was in India.  I definitely don’t feel like I’m the same person as when I left, but where did that person go and who am I now based on what I’ve seen and what I know?  It’s been a challenge to re-learn how to do school back in the U.S. and how to keep up with the fast pace of life that exists in western culture.  The other day I was talking to a close friend about this, one who has understood and gone through the same process that I currently find myself in.  

She said this to me:  “You need to stop looking for the person who you were before you went to India.  She doesn’t exist anymore.  It’s not a bad thing; it’s just a reality.  And stop thinking of yourself as running in a race, trying to keep pace with others.  You are on a journey all you own, so stop thinking about who you’re running with and start thinking about who you’re running to.”

To which I replied: “Dang girl.”

But she was right.  I think sometimes moving forward and growing up is a scary process, one that I find myself resisting without even realizing it.  A chapter of my life, one that I had been anticipating for months, now only exists in pictures and journal entries.  And now I find myself in new friendships, relationships, classes, a new room with new roommates.  Everything is new all over again, and in few months school will end and new will begin again.  And the cycle continues.

Most of the time I meet new with excitement and anticipation, knowing that in ambiguity lays immense potential and possibility. And at the same time there is a good bit of fear that lies in not having a clear map or timeline for life.  What if I make the wrong choice or seize the wrong opportunity and find myself living outside of what God wants?  There must be this black and white, one way, narrow, surrounded-by-lava path that God desires for me to be on…right?  Recently there was a woman in chapel that spoke on this very subject and she, like myself, thought the same things.  She said, “What makes a road God’s road isn’t that it’s lined with step by step instructions on what God wants.  What makes a road God’s road is that you sell yourself on it, and claim it as His.”

To which I thought to myself:  “Dang girl.”

There’s something you should know about me, something I'm realizing more as I get older…I like game plans.  I like schedules and commitments and writing in pen.  It’s my guilty pleasure.  Having an idea of what’s ahead makes me feel safe and prepared and there are times when I find myself being so frustrated thinking that if only God would tell me what he wants me to DO, I could get to work, roll up my sleeves and start making progress towards the plan.  But several times, in the midst of thinking this, God whispers, “Ashley, if you don’t know how to BE with me, you have no business doing for me.”

“Dang God.”

It is in those moments when I am reminded that maybe it doesn’t matter where I live, what kind of job I have, and that its ok to make plans in pencil.  What matters is offering all aspects of my life to be used in whatever way God wants to use them in His plan for the world, and to shift my focus from DOING for God to BEING with God.

Thank you Jesus for “Dang” moments; when unexpected people hit us in the face with truth that we never realized we needed to hear.

Ashley Sider