How to Turn Left

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Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning, I take my son to preschool. It’s a zippy little drive, only two stoplights. Most mornings, we’re there in five minutes. It’s glorious.

The drive home is a different story.

You see, there is an intersection on the way home where I need to make a left turn. I am not fearful of left turns in general. But because of the way this one is angled, I cannot see a blessed thing. I squint, I lean way over, I inch my vehicle as far as I dare. It doesn’t matter. Each time I turn, I feel like I’m just guessing another vehicle won’t slam into me. It makes me wildly uncomfortable.

I wondered if it was just me. I mean, there are other vehicles in front of me, sailing through. Hundreds more over the course of the day. Are they all panicked? Can they see something I can’t? Is there something so wrong with me that I can’t make the darn turn with my wits about me?

I have no idea.

Eventually, I got fed up seeing my life flash before me six times a week. So I started turning left a few blocks past the intersection. It has miles more visibility, and my blood pressure stays decidedly in the medically recommended range.

Despite how much better I feel, I’m embarrassed to confess this. Because taking a new route isn’t logical. It takes me closer to ten minutes to get home, instead of five. The other intersection is perfectly functional, people use it without incident every day. Sometimes when I’m driving through, I feel a little prick of shame that I can’t just make the turn like everyone else. It’s a perfectly great turn. Who am I to reject it to take a longer path? Just because I’m not comfortable? Get over it, Woman!

This annoying intersection is so very reflective of the path my faith has taken over the past year. I’ve spent my life taking the spiritual route I was supposed to take. The way that was logical. Time-efficient. Everywhere I looked, hundreds were right beside me, doing the same thing, all looking settled and reverent and holy.

The problem with that route was I did not look reverent or holy. I was deeply unsettled at times. I shifted in my seat and tried hard to appear serene. And happy. Of course, looking happy was the most important thing. But my insides were churning, my heart was racing, and the knot in the pit of my stomach tightened to a point where breathing felt like a luxury. I didn’t know what was wrong with me. I felt so alone with the people I was supposed to be traveling with.

Eventually, I got the guts up to try a different route. I entered a bit of a spiritual wilderness. There was nothing linear or practical about it, but my heart breathed clear and easy that day. I had no plan, and I felt embarrassed for abandoning the right way for gut and heart and big feelings. But I felt so free, I didn’t care.

I thought I had to keep making that same left turn, doing what made sense on paper, what everyone else was doing, to have a strong faith, a meaningful faith. But I no longer believe that. I no longer feel like I am less than for taking the long way; for tuning into my sweaty palms and aching heart. For taking the time and space to ponder and ask myself hard questions.

Our theme this month—Pause—embodies my spiritual journey this year. I didn’t press pause on God or prayer or worship. What I did press pause on was everything that interfered with the way I experienced God and prayer and worship. I pressed pause on expectation and on obligation, on guilt and the right way to do things. I’ve leaned in to listening, to being still, to singing loudly and to crying without a hint of shame. I leaned in to long drives and talking to God while I drove. To searching for answers and clarity, instead of waiting for someone to do it for me.

From the outside, I might look like I’m far from where I should be. And while I’m far from where I used to be, I am neither uncertain or lost, floundering or confused. I’m just taking the long way. Not everyone does. But it’s been the best decision for me, for my relationship with God and, of course, for my blood pressure.

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Megan Gahan
If you call me Meg I'll feel like we've been friends for a while, so do go with that. By day I run after two little dudes, but when the house is - finally - quiet I like to write, often a giant mug of Earl Grey Vanilla beside me. More often with a giant bowl of ice cream. I've worked in the fitness industry for over ten years, so talking body image and push-up technique gets me excited. I ponder those things, along with faith, parenting, and my desire to be a superhero over at megangahan.com.
Megan Gahan
Megan Gahan

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Megan Gahan
  • Ganise C.

    Love. I understand this – very well. Xx

    • Megan Gahan

      Thank you so much Ganise <3

  • I’ve just made some life changes after a similar need for a reroute in my own life. This year has been marked with serious stress and health issues for me, many based on the stressful line of work I’m in. I had a very meaningful conversation with a woman I really respect a few months back about how maybe God doesn’t always want us to choose the hard thing. That sometimes it’s ok not to. The struggles that we’re choosing to be in, do they make us more like Christ? Or are we becoming jaded and fault finding? When the latter is true, perhaps it’s time to take a temporary step back. Which is the season I’m in right now in life. Thanks for this reminder that we need to pause expectations and obligations sometimes in order to be most well.

    • Megan Gahan

      Wow, I LOVE what you’re saying here Beth. About how God doesn’t always want us to choose the hard thing. That is giving me a lot to think on. Thank you for showing up here and sharing a bit about where you’re at. It means so very much to me, and to the readers who I’m sure were equally encouraged by your comment. Much love to you 🙂

  • Every post of yours seems to speak to me on just the right day, in just the right way – if there is such a way. I’m emboldened to make some changes and let go of some things today, having read your beautiful and brave words. I’m so glad for you (and your blood pressure!) that you’re on this road. xo

    • Megan Gahan

      I feel so humbled by your comment, Naomi. Thank you doesn’t seem to cover it, but THANK YOU SOOOOOO MUCH will have to do! Sending love and low blood pressure wishes your way 😉

  • So much of our angst about faith ends up being the claustrophobia of trying to walk in lockstep with others when God made each of us to relate to Him according to our own uniqueness. Thank you for daring to write about this journey.

    • Amy Chumbley

      Totally agree!

    • Megan Gahan

      Michele, can you write all my pieces for me????!!!! You just summed everything up in a sentence! Seriously, I so appreciate your words and your thoughtfulness . . .thank you for showing up here. Much love

  • Funny that I ready this today. I have been toying with some ideas for my “word of the year” for 2017 and I kept coming upon the word”pause”. I keep thinking “why in the world God, this is such a silly word to focus on for a whole year!” But over the past few weeks I have run into posts, and images, and stories about taking time to pause the things I am putting before God. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I read this today 🙂

    • Megan Gahan

      Wow, I love that Keri! A year of “pause”. I can’t wait to hear more as we step into 2017! Thanks so much for reading and sharing here today <3

  • YES!!!!!! This puts to words what I couldn’t put into words – the unsettledness I have felt, the new practices I have explored and the freedom I finally felt to explore them. Finding God in liturgy, in silence, in ways the others around me in my community of faith find odd (but Christians have been practicing for hundreds of years). So beautifully expressed, Meg.Thank you for taking the long way and welcoming us to take it along with you!

    • Megan Gahan

      Goodness, thank you so much Nicole. I always get nervous writing about faith, wondering how it will be received. But the SheLoves community always reminds me I can be completely honest, completely myself in this place. Thank you for your words and your encouragement. Much love <3

  • Helene Burns

    I love you Megan and I love that you are mindful and paying attention to your heart and where you are at and where you are going. You are being intentional and that is to be commended – pressing pause on expectations can be a really good thing.

    On a completely different note – one of my favourite people in the world lived to be about 90 and drove her little burgundy hot rod until the end of her life. Here’s the funny thing about her …. she never made a left hand turn while driving!!! She studied the routes to get to where she was going and she always got there. She would rock up to church with the biggest smile – it always took her longer than everyone else to get there – but she was always so happy when she arrived. Ha – no one could convince her to do it differently and it worked for her.

    xoxo

    • Ah! I LOVE this story! What a gem of a lady. Thank you for the inspiration!

    • Megan Gahan

      I have heard of people who never make left turns, but never met one! This lady sounds so delightful! Thank you so much for your understanding and encouragement. I wrote this piece when I was really in the thick of things. This month, I’ve felt like I’m finally coming out of my wilderness season. I’m feeling clearer than I have in awhile, and I’ve stumbled onto a lovely faith community. It’s quite wonderful. Thank you for always standing with me, wherever I find myself. Love you <3

  • Tiffany C.

    Thank you for sharing this. I’ve been on a bit of a journey out in the wilderness, too, and as my anxiety and fears have faded away, I’ve been delightfully surprised to find God is in the wilderness, too. 💙

    • Megan Gahan

      I love the way you expressed where you’re at Tiffany! Thank you for sharing 🙂

  • I had to chuckle when I read this. I feel the exact same way about parking. I’d rather walk from the far end of the lot than try to maneuver my way into a single spot right by the door. I feel silly (and a bit shameful) about it, but it’s what works. So glad you’re listening closely to yourself. God is SO MUCH bigger than any notions we might have of how to connect with him. Love you, friend! Xoxo

    • Megan Gahan

      I totally relate to your parking phobia! If the lot is full I just head to straight to back. No circling to look for a close spot. I’d rather walk a bit further (hauling the kids, mind you!) and have oodles of room. THANK YOU for taking the time to read and comment today, my friend. Much love to you <3

  • Amy Chumbley

    Megan, I so identify with your story! Several years ago now I had the same experience of sitting in church and feeling the knot in my stomach, feeling queasy, and wondering what was wrong with me! I also felt very much alone but tried so hard to keep a smile on my face! It was a very uncomfortable and long journey but freedom has come and I have learned it’s ok that my journey has not looked the way of so many others (or the way I thought it should or would look!).

    • Megan Gahan

      I so appreciate you sharing a bit of your story, Amy. And I LOVE hearing of the freedom you’ve experienced. Thank you for standing with me today 🙂

  • Sarah Joslyn

    This is my life.

    This is perfect.

    Oh how I love you, Megs. ❤️❤️❤️

    • Megan Gahan

      Thank you SO much Love <3

  • fiona lynne

    Oh Meg, this is so good and so speaks to where I am. We haven’t been going to church this past year and for about the first nine months I had a whole line of convincing reasons lined up in case anyone should ask, so I could save face. I just let it go the last few months and started being honest. This line so spoke to that – “I pressed pause on expectation and on obligation, on guilt and the right way to do things.” It’s not a forever thing but it’s been what we’ve needed in this season and this, this learning to do what is right for us and our journey with God, is what I hope I’ll be able to hold onto going forward.
    (Do you know how much i love EVERYTHING you write?! Even when I’m days, weeks, late reading!…) x

    • Megan Gahan

      Fiona, thank you so much for this. I know taking the time to have coherent, adult thoughts and type them are a major challenge in the season you’re in! Know that your words and encouragement are such an incredible blessing to me. And I completely relate to what you said about having all the reasons lined up to save face. Oh my stars . . . I spent months with all my excuses at the ready! Don’t worry about being in a bit of an odd place in the journey—you’re in very good company. Much love, my friend 🙂

  • Patty

    I am going to be 60 this year- 2017- and this past year I moved off the crowded path of traditional American Christianity and turned left so to speak. It has a price. People are unsure about us anymore- some are angry that we are not predictable anymore, not doing all the typical church roles we have been plugged into, unhappy we are using our money for refugees, helping the exprisoners, or spending time walking in woods for worship instead of in a pew listening to someone else’s opinion.
    And to my delight we have found other travelers in this road as well.