A year ago, I had big plans for this little blog. I’d finally created some space to tell my story and share my heart. But as you can see, not a whole lot of that has happened in my corner of the internet since then. I think that’s because in the last year, the words I would’ve used to talk about my life don’t fit the script anymore.
For a girl who’s defined herself by her work for 24 years – 2016 threw a few really sick twists in the plot I’d planned out. In true millennial fashion I’ve always summed myself up by the jobs I do and the things I produce. But this year has brought me low. It took me to a place where I could no longer find my worth in my work or my lifestyle or my community. Suddenly, I couldn’t meet my own standards of success or worth or happiness. I faced failure and heartbreak and change that I just didn’t have the words for.
And I think it might have started with the prayers I was praying in the summer and fall of 2015, months before all of this happened. From the relative safety of Danielle’s floral print couch on the top floor of our Baltimore apartment, I’d look down over the corner of Eutaw and North Avenue. With coffee and journal in hand, I’d sit and ask God to 1) make me brave and 2) take down all the roadblocks that were holding me back from relying on him.
Take it from me: don’t pray those kinds of prayers unless you’re ready to get rocked. Don’t pray them just because you think they sound good and holy – especially if you’re wholly unprepared for the painful work that comes with the answer. Don’t pray them unless you’re ready to come down to the ground – hard – and take a long honest look at yourself, apart from the things you hide behind for status and security.
Those prayers I had prayed from that flowery couch marked the start of my unraveling: next thing I knew, I woke up in a drowsy Florida town with one box and one suitcase. The people who really knew me – for better or for worse – were 1000 miles away. I spent the next four months as a couchsurfer who rode an old bike around town trying desperately to find my way to Publix. Then, I quit the job that took me cross-country in the first place – and I left it without a backup plan. That’s when I remembered what a colleague had said to me when I was 22 and, in my mind at that time, on top of the world: “Corie, if this is where you are right out of college, I can only imagine where you’ll be when you’re 25.”
Today, a few weeks out from my birthday, you’ll find me making coffee and cleaning bathrooms and restocking cups. I don’t think this is what either of us had in mind – and on my good days, I think that’s ok.
In the words of Parker Palmer, a new kind of humility has started to take root in my humiliation. The past year brought me “down to the ground on which it is safe to stand and fall.” And now, I can move toward a sense of self that’s not built upon what I do – but the woman I was created to be.
living hidden and holy
The same week I started working at Starbucks, I started reading Jesus: A Pilgrimage by one of my favorite Jesuits, Father James Martin. With another priest, he journeyed across Israel and Palestine to visit the places where Jesus lived and worked. But when they came to Nazareth – I was amazed by what Fr. Martin pointed out: the king of the universe didn’t choose to live in the power of Rome, the influence of Jerusalem or the cultural crossroads of Sepphoris. Along with maybe a thousand other farmers and craftsmen, Jesus specifically chose to make his home in the most insignificant place you can think of: Nazareth (really, can anything good ever come from there?). And between the ages of 12 and 30, the scriptures don’t tell us anything about his life in this little village. All that we really know is that during the ‘prime’ of his life, Jesus was flying under the radar.
In Nazareth, he wasn’t performing miracles. He was probably sanding beams and crafting tables. He wasn’t preaching to crowds of thousands. He was sitting and eating with his tight knit community – the kind that probably grew deeper and truer as they lived through seasons of plenty and drought. In those hidden years, Jesus wasn’t spending his time striving for approval, ascension or acceptance: he was faithfully, humanly going about his Father’s business.
And in that chapter called Nazareth, Fr. Martin asks a really wonderful question: “was Jesus any less the son of God when he was doing ordinary things? The life of Nazareth can be followed by ordinary people on their path to holiness.”
Right after I read this, I was relieved. I skipped off to my shift; suddenly a bit more thrilled that I could still be going about my Father’s business while I cleaned floors and brewed iced tea. But the practical follow-through of Christlike living is never really as simple or romantic as I think it’s going to be.
I’m two months into this “hidden life” and I’m definitely more than halfway to a quarter-life crisis. These days haven’t looked very holy. They’ve sounded sort of weepy – and they’ve tasted a little bit bitter. As I sit in the relative stillness of shift work, the scariest of the feelings and thoughts I’ve been running from for months slowly steam up to the surface.
- Who am I if I am not doing something the world (or myself) deems impressive?
- What does it say about me that I went from my dream job to a drive through in just over a year?
- What am I good for if all I produce in a day is a few gallons of coffee?
But every day, as I bend low to sweep up espresso grounds or brew another batch of dark roast, I learn a little bit more about God Immanuel. He’s still with me and within me in the hidden, humble, day to day drudgery – and he understands it because he’s lived it. He’s still willing to claim me as his own even if I’m never seen or known for my work outside of my coffeeshop. Jesus’ life in Nazareth makes me remember that my life is made up of seasons of action, change, rest and simplicity.
settling into the rhythms of grace
These days I’m not definitely not ascending any ladders (and part of me still thinks I should be) but God is calling my heart to freefall into the rhythms of grace: rhythms that are less like the 9 to 5 and more like eight minute cycles of making whipped creams, bussing counters and grinding coffee beans. Instead of pulling my hair out to meet deadlines that never really mattered, these rhythms let me nestle between stacks of red cups in the back room, reading books on my 10-minute breaks. They let me slow down enough to watch the streaky pink sunrise through a drive through window.
For me, this is grace. This is everyday evidence that God’s love for me is absolutely no less than it was before, even though I feel like I am doing less than ever before to earn his love.
And sometimes, when I feel that old longing for the hustle and grind that let me try to prove (to people whose opinions don’t matter) just how great and hardworking I am, Jesus whispers, “but doesn’t it sound even greater to step out of their game and just sit with me?”
My heart sighs. Yes…it does.
In case you’re curious – I have no idea what I’m doing right now. But I know that God has to be up to something. I know for sure that my heart – the part of me that’s closest to God himself – has been calling (and calling, and calling…) me to cease striving and come and rest.
To stop ignoring my heart with all of its longings.
To take on the easier, lighter yoke.