"Behold, I am doing a new thing."
A new chapter began this weekend.
I'm still piecing together what exactly happened, but I am absolutely in awe of what God has done.
On Wednesday, I was struggling with grief, struggling with what seemed like ever-present darkness. I went for a walk to try to breathe in the woods behind Trinity. I wrote this:
We talk about living in tension. I liked it because it helped me reconcile with the lack of answers. I'm living in the tension between trying to be real and trying to choose joy. Between needing help and not burdening. Between everything feeling huge and everything feeling insignificant. Between knowing why and accepting why. Between gratitude and ingratitude. Between conviction and frailty. Between giving up and loving hope. Maybe this is like getting a tattoo. I asked for it, and the artist is doing it, and I'm just complaining and crying and being angry about how much it hurts. I don't care about the art, the beautiful image. Not yet.
But I went from there to a beautiful dorm meeting, setting a vision for a year. I went to bed feeling kind of okay.
The next night, I went to hear John Mark Comer speaking at a church in Langley, speaking on dreams and the big, beautiful things we have asked God to do in our lives. And as we closed in worshipful singing, I realized that God was truly changing me, shaping me, and molding me in the ways I had asked Him to do for years. I wasn't grateful for it, but I caught a tiny glimpse of what it might look like.
The next morning, I headed off to Pender Island with my RA team for our spring retreat. That afternoon, I was telling one of them about the previous evening, and how I wasn't grateful yet. But something felt different in me. Like maybe... I was?
That night we all shared our testimonies, and I shared how my life has shaped me to be passionately logical, inwardly thoughtful, decidedly faithful, prophetically prayerful, and hesitantly emotional, essentially in that order. But as I was getting ready to share. I realized that I was ready to add one more. I added the one that most truly describes where I am now: painfully grateful. I finally was starting to feel again what I've always known: God uses suffering to shape us, grow us, and bring us closer to Him. And I finally felt again how much I want that more than anything.
That night, I wrote this:
Two days ago, I was so ungrateful. Yesterday I caught a glimpse of what God might be doing in me, a tiny hint of what gratitude might feel like. And today, for the first time, I am able to say thank you. I honestly didn't expect it to come so soon. Oh God it is beautiful. And I can't believe I just wrote that sentence.
The next morning, we were all given solitude time. I went out to the ocean and found a place on the rocky shore where the tide was just far enough out to let me climb up. I read some Scripture, sat in silence for a bit, and then wandered onto the rocks in the water. I began to pray Psalm 139. I pictured Jesus standing on my right side, next to me on the rock. Even there your hand will guide me (v. 10), I took his hand with my right, wanting to honor him with my right hand. Your right hand will hold me fast (v. 10), I started to move over on the rock, thinking Oh, your right hand, let's switch. But he said, "No," and instead flung his right arm around me in a full frontal embrace. And in that instant, before I could even realize what was happening, a wave of the ocean crashed over my rock, and I had to scamper upwards, though my feet still got wet. It was like that fling of his embrace was so strong that even the ocean had to join in. I couldn't stop smiling, I was overwhelmed by how much he loved me. How he loved me more than I had expected. How when I was content with him simply being present, even honored by holding his hand, he wanted more. He wanted me more. I went back down to the rock, like he was still standing there. And holding my hand again. Lead me in the way everlasting (v. 24). And in that moment, still standing slightly in front of me, he took my right hand again and smiling said, "Okay. Let's go." And I realized that he was talking about the ocean. Out upon the waters, the great unknown, where feet may fail, as the song goes. Now I know what it feels like when feet fail, when we sink and cry out, "Lord, save me!" I don't like it. I don't like the grief that feels so much like fear. I've experienced the agony of heartbreak, the crushing answer to prayer for deeper relationship. And he wants to go deeper. He is almost so eager that it feels like he's pulling; I've just barely gotten to the place of saying "Yes," and he is saying, "Come on, let's go!" with the smile of a lover about to take his beloved on an adventure.
And I want to go with him.
My eyes have been opened to the cost. I realize that I could lose anything or everything. I could lose more people, or my vocation, or my health, or anything. I could go through deserts wider and drier than I can even imagine. But it is worth it. If all of this, the sick and evil effects of the world, can be used to bring me closer to the one calling me into the waters, I will go. It didn't seem worth it on Wednesday. It might not seem worth it a week or a year or a decade from now as I struggle through the valley of the shadows. But today I can see clearly. Not that it is clear: the dark water leads right into the fog. But I can see Jesus, I can see more of His love than I maybe ever have before. He goes with me into the waters, he holds my hand, he hears my cry of "Lord, save me!" and answers.
I don't trust him to make my life awesome, full of pleasures and comfortable. He never promised that. But I trust him to be with me. He did promise that. And that is better. Far, far, far better.