We are leaving. Even if we were not supposed to, we chose to and it is happening. We are moving again. It is the eighth time in eleven years of marriage.
Maybe I should have gotten used to it by now, but every move makes me ask myself the same basic questions: Where to? What’s the point? What do you live for? And this is because the move is not my choice, but because of my husband, who works as a pastor.
Looking at the packed furniture leaning against the walls, the 50-plus boxes and bags waiting to be moved 400 miles south, the sleepless nights, the phones ringing ever since I’ve known him, the marathons between weddings, baptisms, funerals, constructions—it seems that his life really makes sense. It is the meaning that goes with answering the call to the ministry, and by fulfilling the dream that goes with that call. I could very easily—and sometimes it’s even tempting to—feel an attachment to his life. But if this lifestyle also makes sense to me, it is because I am living out the promise made at our wedding: wherever you go, I will go too.
What makes my life purposeful and meaningful, even when nothing is stable?
Work? For me, it is temporary and different, most of the time. Everything that was beginning to take on meaning and direction has to stop and change at a moment’s notice. I often have to figure out how to contribute to society in a new context. Now, standing at the threshold of yet another new context, when the old paths no longer match the novelty that is settling in, I ask myself: What would I try if I were not afraid of failure? What would I do if I knew for sure that I would succeed? What would I choose if I didn’t feel any social pressure? How can I use my passions, abilities, and talents in these new circumstances? Not infrequently, the fear of or stubbornness about keeping things on a certain trajectory has blurred my path.
Relationships? My friends are getting rarer, and my family is far away. My husband is busy, and my children are often too tiring. But, yes, relationships keep my life alive. The connections, the empathy, and the efforts made for others, even in the most seemingly insignificant ways, have always been a source of energy in my life. To see that the lives of those around me are a little better because I was around—that they managed a little better with my help—whether it’s a job, in the case of adults, or just a new skill, in the case of children—brings me fulfilment.
Sometimes the dream that accompanies ministry, and my perspective on it, informs my direction. Fulfilment, great achievements, and positive experiences give meaning to life. Sometimes I find the same strong meaning in painful situations, or in the little things. Yesterday morning, my little one, with his eyes full of sleep, put his arms around me and told me that I was his superhero. He wasn’t talking in his sleep, and I hadn’t done anything special. I had just allowed him into bed with me, in the middle of the night, when his tummy bothered him. This is how he expressed his astonishment that his mother’s caresses soothed his pain. And this little bit of feedback filled my whole day with gratitude that I am his mother. Children offer me countless opportunities to enjoy the meaning of life in small things.
Certainty, and planning for tomorrow, give me security, direction and courage. In the more turbulent moments, such as the present, in which I do not know what tomorrow holds for me, curiosity and faith give value to the uncertain future.
Will the sofa fit in the new living room? What will it be like to have the piano in the hallway? What can I do to make my children feel at home in that place too? What will I do? Who are the people I can positively influence? What will God surprise me with this time?
Whether at a macro or micro level, in certain times or at the beginning of an unknown path, my life acquires meaning and balance when it is lived according to my own values. And I define my values when I have a clear picture of my identity. Who am I? What represents me? What are my beliefs? What is precious and vital to me? What, or who, do I rely on in difficult times? As time goes on, my perspective on life and its fulfilment changes.
If 20 years ago I thought that social and professional achievements are of the utmost importance, now I am looking for meaning rather than results. To understand why, it is sometimes enough to make decisions that are uncomfortable for me: to make cabbage salad, even if I don’t like the inconvenience it creates, because I know it’s healthy; to take the children to swim, because they need sports in the winter too; to write a storybook; to collect donations.
A sense of identity and an awareness of our values make all other things align, bringing meaning to each day. So even now, in moments of discomfort and imbalance, I want to live every day responsibly, being authentic to myself, and becoming the best version of myself. What will be has not yet been shown, but one thing is certain: at every turn, the most valuable luggage I carry is what I am to be with God’s help.