Having It Figured Out

There is a certain amount of times a person can be asked “What exactly are we doing today?” before they become comfortable with not always having a concrete answer. In a position of leadership (at least for me), the ideal circumstance is knowing exactly how the day is going to go. I’ve grown up wanting to know the day-by-day itinerary for every mission trip, every family vacation, and every other adventure I’ve ever been on. It’s comforting to feel like I’m in control of every detail of what I’m doing. However, over the past month of work with AYM, I have had to let go of some of those tendencies.

In general, our schedule is largely the same every week. Arrival on Sunday, worksites Monday through Wednesday, neighborhood walk on Thursday, and worship/goodbyes on Friday. It’s a very systematic routine to get into, and it feels good to go through some of the same motions enough to create muscle memory. However, as my high school choir director always said, “Details make the difference.” It is in the details of each day that make them exciting, but also a little stressful. I had to learn to appreciate the opportunity for flexibility and learning when reality doesn’t end up matching with how I imagined the day.  My coworkers and I have enough experience to know what is typical at each worksite we bring our young people to, but non-profit work doesn’t have squared-off edges and doesn’t fit into a box. We don’t know who we’ll meet, what conversations we’ll have, or what particular tasks will need doing. Maybe we’ll blow through a day’s work in an hour and other meaningful activities need to be figured out. Maybe we’ll skip going to our scheduled lunch site because we’re having such a great time in a garden. Maybe we’ll meet a neighbor who causes us to think differently about an issue.  There is always a plan, but there is also a lot of wiggle room that I had to quickly get comfortable with.

I feel like this is reflective of experiences with faith. I grew up in the church; I went to Sunday school, I was confirmed in 8th grade, and I was an elder on my church’s Session my senior year. On paper, it looks like a fairly systematic routine, but there was more than a little bit of wiggle room. Throughout my whole life, I have struggled with not having everything about faith “figured out”. It has been a roller coaster of ups and downs, twists and turns, and everything in between. I’ve always had this image of an “ideal Christian” in my head that I’ve never been able to live up to. Before this summer started, I was scared that maybe I wasn’t the right person for this job, that someone else should lead young people on their mission of service and spirituality, because I didn’t feel like enough.

Faith, though, doesn’t have squared-off edges either. It doesn’t fit into a box. It’s a journey that isn’t meant to be completely understood, no matter how much my type A personality wants it to be. When my young people ask me “What exactly are we doing today?”, I ask them to be comfortable with my occasional “We’ll see when we get there!” In turn, I’m learning to be comfortable with my relationship with God being malleable as I get older, changing as any relationship would.  I’m learning to be more trusting in my faith, that I don’t have to have everything “figured out” to be worthy.

What will we be cleaning the next time we go to A Hope Day Shelter? What meal will we be helping to prepare at Haywood Street Congregation? What vegetables will need harvesting at The Lord’s Acre? Where will our personal faith journeys take us and what will they feel like tomorrow, next week, or in three years? Well…we’ll see when we get there.

Naomi is a student at James Madison University.  She is a summer intern at Asheville Youth Mission

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