This will be the final part of my summer series. This is by no means a full account of the lessons I learned and as I have realized these past weeks I am still in the process of understanding why May to August was so packed full of education, but I know this summer has been a turning point in many ways.
Skipping ahead several weeks from my Blessed Shock I was on the road back to school. A whole twenty-six hours on the road. For those of you who have never been on a road trip, that’s a long time – especially when you are alone travelling through many states. [Thankfully, I have wonderful friends who allowed me to stay with them letting me break up the trip into three days of driving plus plenty of hang out time!]
My time in the car was spent listening to Matt Chandler of the Village Church’s Galatians series, [okay, yep, again. I needed to hear it again to actually get it. Also, I highly recommend checking it out] praying, listening to some music, and being freaked out of my mind.
You see, I was terrified to go back to school. I did not enjoy my first year of school out East as I expected* I would. I couldn’t figure out why I was supposed to be there nor could I see what the benefit of another year would be when I got so little out of the first. [Disclaimer: my new friends are wonderful and I mean no insult to them or our friendship, they helped me get through big time when so many other things seemed to be falling apart.]
I just wanted to go back home. Each exit I passed labeled West drew me like a magnet. I had to force myself to stay on my route. Three times, yep not one, not two, but three times I had to pull out of the exit lane at the last minute. I wanted to go home.
Being the “mature Christian” I am I decided to pray…after struggling for several hours. I confessed how much fear I had, what my disappointments from the summer were, the things I regretted doing as well as things left undone. I told Him about what I had learned. I asked about what I didn’t understand. I complained a lot. I was silent, too. I begged Him to have me at home rather than school; I’m still convinced I felt Him laugh (in a goodhearted sort of way). East I was to go. By the end of my chattering I felt emotionally drained. I was still longing for the West, dreading looming East Coast, but my fears were not as stifling.
I flipped on the radio to the beginning notes of East to West by Casting Crowns. I’ve loved the song since its release so I sang along immediately – loudly and poorly for those curious. It wasn’t until the second repeat of the chorus I understood the words:
“Jesus, can You show me just how far the east is from the west/'cause I can't bear to see the man I've been come rising up in me again/'cause You know just how far the east is from the west/From one scarred hand to the other”
Oh embarrassing. Had I not just feared half the day about being on another side of the country? How could I still not grasp it does not matter where I am? That even in my fears “in the arms of Your mercy I find rest?”
I don’t know what song played next, I’m not really even sure if I continued to sing along with Mark Hall and the gang, but that chorus rang through my head as I continued down another lonely stretch of highway. There’s a hope in my traveling. A plan in my distress. It’s not about understanding what’s happening it’s about leaning into my faith no matter what.
The next day wasn’t as bad. I still wanted to go home – that feeling hasn’t gone away – but I realized that my education isn’t what brought me here. God did. The people here and the ones back home aren’t the ones who know what’s best for me. God does. It doesn’t matter where I am or what I feel or who I miss. The God of all creation has things for me to learn, lots for me to do.
This lesson must sound familiar as I seem to be relearning it all the time. It seems that God has seen fit to point out the different areas where I’m not fully trusting in Him individually. That doesn’t mean that I’ve reached a point where I never doubt His intentions, but it does mean that I’m becoming less and less likely to take back what I’ve already handed over. Because after all,
I know You've washed me white, turned my darkness into light
I need Your peace to get me through, to get me through this night
I can't live by what I feel, but by the truth Your word reveals
I'm not holding on to You, but You're holding on to me
You're holding on to me
*I really need to write about expectations at some point. They’re, uh, tricky to handle and messy to uncover.