Role Discontent


Originally posted Feb 11, 2019 on

Identity and Loss

Despite sharing the load of being a parent to young kids in a more egalitarian way, the current phase of parenting finds both of our young kids at my side of the bed regularly in the middle of the night. Pattering footsteps are heard for any number of reasons. In this particular stage I’m the one theywant first. A gift, I suppose… but a confused one for me, as I wrestle with God about how He wants to use me in this coming season. The cluster-roles of motherhood, transition coach, trainer and cross-cultural worker remain in regular tension.

Thanks to Jeff, I’ve been blessed in the last several months to have time away to reflect, dream, and consider what the next season in these roles might entail. A lovely week away with unlimited personal time, the ability to dream, sleep, and exercise at leisure allowed for an amazing time to consider the possibilities of our future. Yet as is the case in coming back to reality, I returned and re-engaged to acknowledge much to my surprise (again!), that my life consists of limitations!


You see, I’m not a “natural mom” in strengths or God-given gifting. I’m introverted for one, with ahigh need for alone time to rejuvenate and just function well. And because deep processing is part of my wiring and a high value, I need silence to hear my thoughts! For some reason my young kids don’t seem to understand that! A friend recently asked me, “Sara how do you get your introvert time as a mom?” The answer: “I don’t very often. It’s an ongoing struggle (sigh)!” My personality also begs to operate most effectively when asked to contribute my strengths of ideas,strategies or analytical skills. Sure, some of those are transferable to motherhood, but I don’t oftenfeel that I have my best foot forward in giftedness output in this particular role. I’m just not yournaturally-maternal, gentle, service-oriented, loves to [fill in the mom expectation here] personality.

Okay so maybe there are some idealized expectations to unpack there… but truly I wrestle with it daily! How do I reconcile not stewarding these other “gifts” during a season where one role takesprecedence? How do I find contentment amidst the grumpiness and irritation of mom-dum? When my calendar of events says “no upcoming events”, or worse, kids birthday parties for the next 7 Saturdays! In these times, I find myself down in a slump.

Even today, while I’m writing about calling, identity, and limitations, I’m loving the space! The research is confirming and I have a newfound hope in the coming opportunities to share withothers. I’m only slightly amused at the irony of being continually interrupted by a preciousdaughter, who is at home sick and sitting next to me.

I stop for a brief moment to cuddle and play a quick game of “I Spy” with my at-home-sick child and continue to accept my invitation to wrestle with my identity as mother and worker. When I’mhonest, I can acknowledge these interruptions make me grumpy, short-tempered and full of entitlement. I remind God that it was His divine plan for me to be hired for a formal member carerole when I was 9 months pregnant with my first child, almost a decade ago. He “called forth” my calling with such strange timing. I don’t want to wish these years away by any means. It’s these places of disruption in my calling, my plans, my best-foot-forward that I find hardest to embrace. The invitation to the disruptions being the life we were called to. I desire to live well into the roles of motherhood including the invitation to the LIMITATIONS that coincide.

It’s painful to face the unfulfilled longings left un-met within us. A single person desiring to be married but with no prospects. A couple desiring to be parents only to discover they are infertile. Another couple desiring to enjoy their new marriage, and quickly met with an unexpected pregnancy. A worker who desires to be seen for strengths in leadership with no possibilities for exercising those gifts. The role of missionary stolen as adult-caretaker of aging parents takes precedence. Whatever the unwanted role, how does one reconcile calling with God-given giftings in seasons of having to deny certain roles and accept other unwanted ones?

I believe the invitation is to acknowledge the un-met longings as losses. When I give credibility tothat which is unmet I’m met with sadness, and possibly disappointment. When I move too quickly past what is begging for attention inside of me, I hold onto it and without knowing, place those unmet longings elsewhere, often in other misdirected, unhealthy ways—on the love received from a spouse, on the success of a child, the gratitude of a boss, the performance of a co-worker.

These attempts mask my desires and longings only to temporarily escape the heartache and the reality of the things I dislike about the present. They try to erase the disruptions of life. Instead they take me on a winding road full of forks and turns, detours and dead ends. Here I will soon find myself back again and again if losses are unacknowledged. William Bridges (The Way of Transition) talks about transition or the “neutral zone” as the time to let go not so much of a relationship or a job itself but rather the time of letting go of hopes, fears, dreams and beliefs that we have attached to them. It’s in these attachments of hopes, dreams and longings that we redirect our stance towards a posture of embracing the losses in our current reality. We are called in this place and time to accept our limitations as a part of our calling, a part of our “normal”. To acknowledge limitations is to acknowledge loss.

What if instead of focusing on what we are giving up we are able to see what we are gaining instead? In this place of accepting the current reality and embracing the losses we are called to acknowledge that we are not in control. The places of “disruption” develop in us a deeper ability to empathize with others who are on the same journey of disruption. Our task-oriented selves begin to let go of our attempts to control, to direct, or to plan. In that space we are vulnerable. Painfully vulnerable. We’re invited into the place where our heart engages with the lack of control we feel. We mature in our understanding of development. We gain empathy for others. We gain understanding that life doesn’t turn out how we plan.


As poet David Whyte implores, we are called to spaces of alertness; and alertness is the hidden discipline of the familiar. We create in us a place to be moved and changed, impacted by the unfamiliar. We are put in a proper relationshipwith reality and the created order. We’re reminded once again that we were created and there isa great Creator with a bigger purpose than what we can fathom. A non-linear, uncomfortable road that when acknowledged and surrendered to, frees us from the unrealistic expectations that life is to be lived in a straight, continuous path. There is loss in accepting our lack of control. Simultaneously there is great gain in the freedom and invitation to accept the unknown and our greater calling in this in-between space.

[Finesterre] – “The road in the end
The road in the end,
Taking the path the sun had taken
The road in the end
Taking the path the sun had taken
Into the western sea
The road in the end
taking the path the sun had taken into the western sea
And The moon
and the moon rising behind you
as you stood where ground turned to ocean
No way to your future now
No way to your future now
Except the way your shadow could take
Walking before you across water going where shadows go
No way to make sense of a world that wouldn’t let you pass
Except to call an end to the way you had come
To take out each letter you had brought
And light their illumined corners;
And to read them as they drifted on the late western light;
To empty your bag
To empty your bag
to sort this and to leave that
to sort this and to leave that
To promise what you needed to promise all along
To promise what you needed to promise all along
And to abandon the shoes that brought you here
Right at the water’s edge
Not because you had given up
Not because you had given up
But because now you would find a different way to tread.
Because through it all, part of you would still walk on
no matter how, over the waves.”—David Whyte


Reflection Questions:
In this particular transition, as you consider identity-challenge, what qualities do you feel God is maturing in you?
How does knowing that transition causes great upheaval but also qualities of persistence, empathy, & depth change the way you approach it?
What way forward have you found for coping with current limitations?