- Sonya Leigh Anderson
Updated: Aug 30, 2019
I’m different. Not different like odd, which may be true, but it’s not what I’m meaning today. I’m different like changed. In a different place than I was before. Perhaps in a different season.
I noticed it first in McAllen. Later back at home I tried to explain to Kiana, who’d asked me about my trip. I was a bit embarrassed, but gave my best description. The whole time I had this sense of feeling grown-up. Which is to say, I guess I felt mature. A laughable statement, considering I was, no doubt, a great deal OLDER than most of the team. The other two gals leading with me were younger than my oldest two offspring. But the different I felt is not what I’d call the maturity of age so much as the age of the soul.
Writing this now I chuckle out loud. Thinking about a t-shirt I saw earlier this week, and how it struck me funny. The slogan said something about Jesus loving this hot mess – and after a minute it hit me. Wait a minute, you’re talking about ME?! I was amused by the application. But yes, just months away from that birthday, and thank you, Greg, for subtracting a decade, but my oldest son as of Tuesday has been married two years, and when you do the math the numbers don’t lie.
All that to say, a hot mess and a grown-up soul is its own miracle and I’ll take it.
The past few months have been hard. Not the same hard as the last couple of years, our grueling season of relearning family. The wrestling and stretching of recent months has been less about us and more about me. A season of humbling. Of counting limitations. Less than the least. I got to the place where I knew what this meant as each day I was faced with a long list of the things I am NOT. And looking back now, I can see His wisdom in leading me there. For the sake of my soul.
It’s my soul that’s different. Settled, I think, and at peace.
Last week our church hosted the GLS – a leadership conference out of Willow Creek Church. Two days nonstop of inspiring speakers and I jotted my takeaways in the pages provided, eager to see how the Spirit might lead. And of course, He did. But even in this I can see how I’m different. Conferences past have been more about passion, dreaming of vision and the doors God might open in terms of vocation. But this year I listened with a different perspective, seeing myself in light of today. Aware of PROVISION – and as I write this now, I can see it clearly. How provision and vision share more in common than one might be prone to think.
There was this woman, a high-profile leader, and she told her story – the story of her own sad loss.* And I don’t for a minute compare my struggles to hers, and yet – I think I can claim correlation. It was a distinction she made about post-traumatic stress and what she’s personally experienced as post-traumatic growth. And there it was. My aha. Because PTSD was a consideration, two years ago with lives turned upside down. My husband, especially. And we wondered out loud about long-term effects. But now we’re different, and it’s true what she said. Here in our family. Every one of us. We’re reaping more growth than stress.
Sunday, next, Jimmy gets baptized, a decision he made in McAllen. He’s been sharing his story, first with me before going, then with the team on the mission, and now again for our whole congregation. And his story’s a hard one. I can’t even imagine. All the loss, and change, and the starting over. I remember well the day he said good-bye to Yopal, a fourteen-year-old boy, and the look on his face. Fear and shock. And if ever a kid had a right to some stress, he’s earned it and then some. And yet. Now he’s different. There’s light in his soul and it shows in his face.
Felipe, too. All summer long we’ve been aware of the changes. Since his trip to Colombia I think we can say he’s been a different person. Secure and happy. Lighter in spirit. It was the trip that stretched him – all the figuring things out and flying back and forth and getting himself back home again, and he conquered. He made it. And now he’s driving a car and working a job; using his downtime to draw and paint. He’s stronger and braver, and it’s true what was said about growth.
During lunch one day at the GLS I sat with pastors from a neighboring church. We talked about families and being parents, and Greg’s wife, Lindsey, was there at the table, and she shared a part of her story. She talked about being the mom of babies with medical needs, the doctors and therapy, and unending challenges. A future uncertain, but then she said this. The past three years have been the hardest and best years of my life. And I had to agree. My own story, too. The same, but different.
* Sheryl Sandberg, Author of Lean In and Option B