Wednesday, February 14, 2018

The Patience In Between

It’s times like these, I wish I were a poet.

That the hundred thousand thoughts on my heart could succinctly transform themselves into a dozen or so lines on a page. A cathartic way to juxtapose the beauty and the pain of the things I see and feel every day.

This thought has been mulling around in my mind for quite some time. Not quite ready to land. But today seems fitting. On this misty winter day, when Valentine’s and Ash Wednesday converge.

But this is not a post about Valentine’s Day or about Lent.

Two Sundays ago I said goodbye to the church that has been my home for the last ten years. It astounds me that I’ve lived in my neighborhood that long. I can close my eyes and am instantly transported back in time. Memories of both the plentiful and the scarce.

My decision to leave was not made lightly. It was a long time coming, really. A mixture of burn-out and grief.

The burn-out, first. I have this fault. My love-language is service. And when I am where I am supposed to be, I serve. . . to a fault. Even when I begin to sense that I am not where I am supposed to be any longer, I keep going. Week after week, day after day. What began as love, seeped into duty. Through the gentle guidance of friends, I finally realized this was a leap God was indeed nudging me towards.

And grief. It’s such a strange thing to grieve that which was. Even if it wasn’t all rainbows and sunshine, the gap between a once full community and the now simple few is great indeed. As I walked out the doors for the last time, I realized that grief had been meeting me at those doors for a very long time. A sense of relief washed over me. Not giddy relief, or even enough to bring a smile. But it was a clear lifting of a burden. Of routine service offered seemingly in a vacuum. Of clung-to memories and faded faith.

When I first made the decision to step down from my roles at church and find a new place to worship, I imagined what the time after would be like. A time of re-connecting with God in a meaningful way, without the distractions of “making Sunday happen.” A time of refreshment, connecting with a new church. But it turns out I need a little bit more time to heal. Time for my heart to catch up with my mind.

For with this courageous step, I am again left with a gap. It is a fragile place between that which was, and that which will come. Some may find that exciting, but for me, it is a scary place to be. Blogger Addie Zierman puts it this way:

The space between two solid landscapes feels like water, and sometimes you feel like you’re being baptized, and sometimes you feel like you’re drowning, and it’s all just very hard to pin down.

So where does the beauty come in?

Another water analogy: I feel like a little child near the sea-shore. Gently collecting stones in my pocket to take back home. Some days, the beach is calm and serene. I am at peace. Some days, the waves are crashing too high to get near the smooth small stones. And I must stand back and wait. Both scenes hold beauty. But one is far easier than the other.

I want to plunge ahead and gather so much from this season, but I am at the mercy of my own emotional short-comings and mental wellness. And when that is not enough to hinder, sin always has a way of creeping in.

If, like Aslan, Jesus says to my soul, “Courage, dear heart,” why am I constantly stumbling against my own anxiety and fear? I think patience plays a part. I yearn to overcome these hurdles in one fell-swoop. But that is not how it works. Like faith, the casting out of fear is a journey.

Last week I began listening to the audiobook of Hannah Hurnard’s, Hinds’ Feet in High Places. It is a tenderly simple allegory of the faith journey, yet each time I listen I am pierced by its profoundness. The main character is named Much Afraid. I can equate with that. For her journey, the Shepherd gives her two seasoned companions: Sorrow and Suffering. At such names, it is easy to recoil, but I have learned, companions such as these are indeed gifts from the Lord. Sorrow and suffering can be such helpful companions on the ups and downs of valley roads.

I am slowly seeing this: each new encounter with sorrow and suffering has a way of shedding layers of fear and replacing them with the certainty of Christ. But it takes patience. For,

“the Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance."
(2 Peter 3:9)
If I were a poet, would this lesson be any easier?

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