Arriving by Leaving
By Elisa Morgan
More than forty years ago, I loaded suitcases and boxes into the trunk of my Cutlass (white with a burgundy vinyl roof) and carefully wedged houseplants (an airplane plant, a non-blooming Christmas cactus and a straggly avocado tree) in the backseat. For weeks I'd planned my drive from my hometown of Houston, Texas to attend seminary in Denver, Colorado. I'd secured a room in the home of my new friends from Young Life and felt reasonably ready for the journey.
Just a few days prior, my mother had informed me that she wanted to accompany me on the drive and then fly back. In her mind, it wasn't a good idea for a twenty-two-year-old young woman to drive alone. While her presence would somewhat stifle my independent adventure, I agreed and early one Saturday morning, I backed down the long driveway of our ranch-style home, T-turned to the right and ambled up Plantation Road toward the Katy Freeway with my mother nestled into the passenger seat.
I can still remember glancing through my rearview mirror, down the oak-lined street, as my pink and white brick home shrunk into the distance. But in that moment, it didn't really register. All that mattered was the life way north of me where I was headed.
We spend so much of life moving ahead to what's next. To get our driver's license. To apply to college or trade school. To secure a job. To find a mate. To become a mom. To relinquish our children to their next. To embrace every developing season of life. In each transition, our eyes are set on what's ahead. Sure, we're aware of what's behind, but only dully, as in the backdrop or context for what waits to be discovered and explored before us.
Not long ago a friend asked me about how to make successful transitions. As she considered moving from a long-tenured role with responsibilities of muchness, she worried how she'd adjust. Would she find meaning and purpose again in a diminished mantle? I related to her wonderings, as I'd navigated such territory myself.
Then I recalled a discovery wedged in my soul, layered from each season of launching in my life. While excited to plunge into each new moment, I found myself wobbling, uncertain of my steps, and often dragging more than the contents of my Cutlass along with me. In fact, often dragging some expired version of "me" along from place to place.
The discovery? You have to leave where you are to get where you are going.
Easier said than done at times, right? A new couch in the family room? Fantastic! Until we realize we'd come to depend on the old ottoman and now our feet don't touch the ground. A new role as volunteer? What freedom! Until we look back at previous days of earned meaning and yearn for the validation of a paycheck. A new grandchild? Bliss! Until we catch ourselves slipping back into parenting patterns instead of relinquishing that role to our child and moving into our new calling of grandparent.
This principle of arriving by leaving applies no less to my spiritual journey. In order to experience the fulfillment of trust, I have to leave old securities. To partake of the peace of Jesus' presence in the unknown, I must move away from wearying worry. To embrace the unexpected invitation to serve in a new way, I need to choose to walk away from a well-worn call.
As much as we may delight in the adventure of the new, we humans instinctively hunker down in the refuge of the familiar. When we forget to do the work of leaving, we can have trouble living into our arrivals. Leaving is essential to arriving.
Saying hello to the new means whispering goodbye to the previous. In order to arrive ... we must leave.
Elisa Morgan is the cohost of the podcast, God Hears Her. She is also the cohost of Discover the Word and contributor to Our Daily Bread. Her latest book is When We Pray Like Jesus. Her other books include The Beauty of Broken, Hello, Beauty Full, and She Did What She Could. Connect with Elisa @elisa_morgan on Twitter, and @elisamorganauthor on Facebook and Instagram.