Obey the Last Known Order

Ever get the itch to leave? Your job ... your city ... your life? Wonder why God keeps you in place? Read on as Sara Stowell wrestles through her very personal "gypsy syndrome."


Obey the Last Known Order

By Sara Stowell

Obey the last known order. It's a phrase I'm familiar with from my former life in the Army. Recently I heard someone use this phrase to describe her current life and job situation and I couldn't shake the truth of it, even though I had never thought of it in the civilian or spiritual context. The phrase refers to a military principle: in the absence of new orders, a soldier always obeys the last known order.

Obey the last known order. As the words sank into my heart reminding me of God's direction for me, I realized that I wanted to hear something different, a new assignment. I begged for permission to go, move, quit. Instead I heard deafening silence, and somewhere amidst the echo of the emptiness, the reverberation of the command: Obey the last known order.

When I first moved to Denver, after finishing my 4 year active duty obligation to the Army, I declared that I was going to die here. (I am often prone to dramatic statements about the future.)

The reality is, I have never known roots. As the daughter of a career military officer who joined the military myself, I knew only the power of movement. I felt tired of packing and unpacking the parts of myself constantly required to build new community. I wanted to go to the same church every Sunday, and walk the aisles of the same grocery store each week.

At first I did find beauty in my post-Army season, where rhythm and routine provided much needed stability as I navigated my new civilian identity. Now, I itch to move. I long for the sound of the door of this city slamming shut behind me. When I'm honest, I realize this is a familiar pattern. I've always loved leaving. Except God has been clear in his direction this time.

My last known command was Denver. Graduate school. My current job. The community I've built and invested in around me. As much as I want to dream of other scenarios, in lieu of a new order and a new vision, here I impatiently stay.

The lesson I'm learning this year is an important one. Like many in my generation, the fear of missing out keeps me spinning circles around myself wondering if there is meaning and value in the work that I'm doing, the life that I'm living, right here, right now.

I wonder if my restlessness is God's way of calling me out. Until I slip into the chair across from a hard fought friendship, or my tribe gathers for Sunday night dinner, or I find myself celebrating engagements over ice cream and babies over brunch. We walk our dogs together and share our lives. Staying is sweetened by the grace and intentionality of newfound threads of community that God has provided.

Obey the last known order. This command means accepting that there's been just enough information revealed for me to embrace being present right where I am and shifting my eyes off the future while I call my attention to my real life, right here and right now.

Sara Stowell's current assignment is finishing her Master of Social Work degree and working in Process Improvement at a local hospital. She loves her Sunday night supper club and walking her dog, Lex. An Army Captain in a former life, she still loves to find ways to serve others and explore new places and spaces.

© Elisa Morgan 2020

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