After a move from a suburban cul-de-sac in Atlanta to the heart of New York City, Rebekah Lyons faced a freefall into depression and panic attacks. Wife of Q founder Gabe Lyons, she confronted questions of meaning as she mothered their three children. As she struggled to find her purpose, Lyons launched a flight into something new. She began to uncover her own gifts, encouraging other women to seek out their own callings. She spoke with Sarah Pulliam Bailey about why facing your calling can set you on a Freefall to Fly.
How did you uncover your calling, or as you title it a Freefall to Fly?
The book chronicles my crash and burn, how I came to New York for me, but instead I found surrender. I thought I was coming to the city to find myself, so I took classes in design and fashion. But in the midst of it, I was getting panic attacks and anxiety. It felt like the city was crippling me. I just wanted to leave and go back to Atlanta for safety so I could be comfortably numb. I didn't come to New York thinking it was freefall. I thought it was an adventure. There was a side of me in Atlanta that was longing for to be fuller, to find purpose that I began to face in New York.
You say that women are in the sweet spot of a demographic that are fighting to make sense of their lives. Why do you think that is?
Busyness is the biggest distraction of all, so we can go a long time never really having to consider our calling. Whenever you find a pause in your life, there's a stillness, and you're left with an aching stillness, "Am I living the life I'm supposed to lead? When God knit me together in my mother's womb, is this what he intended?" For me, it was retail therapy. If I wasn't buying something at Target, I was returning something. I would decorate my house, than change it just because I didn't have anything to fill my time. Distractions are the reason we don't have reflection until mid-life. It's a halftime question for women, often happening when our youngest goes off to kindergarten.
You write, "The journey toward meaning begins when we unearth our gifts." How can churches do a better job of helping Christians find their calling?
Talk about it all the time. Have people come in who can lead a retreat. It can feel like an indulgent conversation, like it's just about finding myself. But actually it's about giving glory to what God ordered from the beginning. Men can give women the room to have the platform to talk about and explore this. But knowing your calling doesn't happen overnight. Instead of pressuring women to find their calling like it's another career on top of being a wife, a mother, show them that it's already there for them to uncover.
Is there any danger in overemphasizing our gifts?
Ambition is our way of finding success. Bravery is laying our life down on behalf of others. Calling to me speaks to bravery because it's about, what are we burdened by, what is broken that we want to restore? The gifts we're deploying are on behalf of others versus how it somehow makes us feel important. It's the posture of calling, which is unique because it's something God puts in our lap. It's like he says, "I want to use the way I've wired you to restore this part of the world."
How should Christian respond to the idea, as Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg puts it, that women should Lean In?
Christian women are finding their voice on behalf of others and standing in the gap, a different kind of power than what the world has modeled in a corporate setting. I agree that we need to sit at the table, but whom are we doing it for? Yes, we should Lean In, but on behalf of someone else. We have to add to Sandberg's ideas by addressing why and for whom we are leaning in.
You write, "My patterns of pain came in the form of a mental struggle with anxiety and depression … While I still struggle, those emotions no longer wield the same power over me. Instead, I channel them to break my heart for those who tread the same path." What happens to people, do you think, once they uncover their gifts?
Meaning begins when you uncover your gifts. Meaning is fulfilled when your story finds purpose. When we start to celebrate each other's gifts, we stop comparing with each other. When women can do that, any resentment or jealousy ceases because we look to affirm each other. I believe there is a correlation between a fading within us internally with not knowing our purpose. As women awake and activate gifts, meaning starts to flourish.