“The secret to joy is to keep seeking God where we doubt He is.”
One of the greatest gifts I have been blessed with is to live quite an adventurous life, or so I think. It all started early on, surrounded by like minded people who definitely helped cultivate my explorative nature and an innate curiosity of the world we live in; believing that there is always somewhere new to explore. My mind is overwhelmingly full of memories and lessons that shaped my life and passions for years to come from all the trips we took around the U.S including: The Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Boston, Florida Keys, The Alamo, Washington D.C, New Orleans and so many others, including Mt. Rushmore where I almost refused to get out of the car to see it……..to my defense I was 10 and tired.
From there the fire had been lit, the passion flamed, and my heart continued yearning to explore anywhere and everywhere new! Once at college, I was truly blessed with the opportunity to spend a semester abroad in Salamanca, Spain; it was one of the most rewarding, life changing experiences of my life. Being able to live fully immersed in another culture while soaking up every single ounce of history, language, and beautiful detail of that country that I could was something I will never forget.
I say all these things not to boast, for each of these experiences and adventures are generous gifts from God, but to give a little back story to my heart and it’s issues, or at least the issues I’m trying to address in this post: neophilia, the love of the new……..the novel with the mile long list of the rest of them is for another time.
Rewind the tape to four years ago (2012) and there I was preparing for my big move down to Columbia, SC, my next great adventure. The first year I moved down was every bit as thrilling as I had hoped it would be. Surrounded with a new city filled with new faces to get to know and new places to explore, everything was new! It was exciting and challenging and filled to the brim with ‘carpe diem’ experiences, but I had never intended this place to be more than an in-between. When the newness about Columbia and it’s charm began to wear off, the fishbowl effect in full swing, I assumed it was my time to move on. Don’t get me wrong, I love the friendships and experiences I had been a part of here, but inside there was a stirring and rumbling of that “adventure seeker”, “newness chaser”, dreamer self that struggled to see what was left for me to find here.
It wasn’t until last February (2015) when some of the deep rooted issues surrounding my desire for change were brought to light. At the time, what I thought what was next on the horizon looked like a life based out of Colorado where I would be traveling across borders of all kinds. Sitting in the waiting room at a hotel in Nashville, TN, I glanced over my notes and gathered my thoughts before heading into my final interview for a position as a flight attendant, what I thought was my dream job. Dream job because I thought it was my ticket out of Columbia, to places unknown, to a fresh start, and a thrilling life of adventure……or so I hoped.
As I sit typing this, looking out from my kitchen window at the scorching sun and desperately avoiding the Columbia summer heat, I admit it is still hard not wishing things had worked out for me to move to somewhere a little cooler and with a few more mountains in sight. Although I can look back now and say that it was God’s sovereignty and protection that kept me from getting that dream job, when that door was shut………….Admittedly, it was hard to swallow the reality that this ‘no’ meant in turn that the ‘yes’ was Columbia.
“The more we let God take us over, the more truly ourselves we become – because He made us. He invented us. He invented all the different people that you and I were intended to be [….] It is when I turn to Christ, when I give up myself to His personality, that I first begin to have a real personality of my own.”
It was hard at first to pinpoint exactly why Columbia felt so unsettling. I loved the people here for sure, and though I complained about the weather and the scenery, those weren’t really deal breakers. So why was there this pressing need to leave, to chase what was next?
Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t think it is a negative thing to desire and to be adventurous in nature, to love new experiences and to dream/hope for a certain path for your life, but the bigger issue comes when we allow our hearts to finds its primary contentment and satisfaction in this idea of the new…or really anything that acts as a false fuel for our lives (money/career/status, etc.). For me, the reality that chasing these functional saviors, or temporary hopes, will ALWAYS lead me to a dead end; there will will never be enough ‘new’ to satisfy the grumblings of my heart, which is where the danger of this fixation lies.
Lately, God has been pressing on my heart to dig into this deep rooted desire. Partly, I believe, because even though I feel at peace that Columbia is where I need to be right now, my heart is still struggling to see it as enough. With the help of church family, friends and family pointing me to truth, I have slowly begun to understand that at the root of these deep rooted grumblings seems to be an overwhelming feeling of discontent with my current chapter of life, realizing that I was looking to the new as an unhealthy way to cope with the chaos of life that was swirling around me. A way for me to control and come to terms with the fact that I did not like how my life looked like at the present time. At the age of 28, what I had expected or even just hoped for looked nothing like what my reality was. The new was my way of providing a sense of adventure, an escape, from the current reality I wanted to avoid. Revealing a heart that ultimately was not trusting God and was discontent with where He was leading me, or keeping me.
“When you think He is farthest from you, or even has turned against you, the truth is He is laying foundation stones of greater happiness in your life.” John Piper (Ruth: Sweet and Bitter Providence)
The reality though, is that God knew exactly what He was doing by keeping me in Columbia. The past year and a half since my interview in TN seems like a blur, a fuzzy memory. Never would I have imagined what events would transpire just a few months after getting back, but God knew. God knew that a life in a new city surrounded by new faces and new places and new sights to see, although exciting, would leave me isolated and alone. God knew that a familiar place with family and friends was exactly where I needed to be; that too much change would put me over the edge. God knew that what I would need most in the months to come would be community: people that fully know and fully love me, people that would come over at odd hours of the night to sit and pray with me when I didn’t have the strength to, people that would help carry my burdens when I was too weak. God knew that I needed a church family that cares deeply and chooses to walk alongside me in a very trying and challenging season, allowing a safe place to sift through the questions and doubts and help begin traversing the road ahead of me. God knew.
God ALWAYS knows……He truly is sovereign and sees it all, not missing even one detail of our lives. Like it says in Luke 12:6-7, “Are not five sparrows sold for two cents? Yet not one of them is forgotten before God. “Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows”. There are examples after examples of God’s mysterious providence (Israelites, Joseph, Ruth, Job, etc.), evidence that He is at work in the worst of times, using sufferings and trials to bring about wondrous works for His people.
Of all the examples of how much God loves and pursues His people, and wants to use their circumstances for His glory and their good, we can look to Jesus, God’s son, who endured every act of cruelty and aspect of suffering possible. Who begged and pleaded for His father to take it all away (Matthew 26:39), but remained faithful to the path ahead that God had planned in order to become our perfect salvation and in turn providing eternal reconciliation, relationship and hope for a forever future with Him.
*Your love’s not fractured
It’s not a troubled mind
It isn’t anxious
It’s not the restless kind
Your love’s not passive
It’s never disengaged
It’s always present
It hangs on every word we say
Love keeps its promises
It keep its word
It honors what’s sacred
‘Cause its vows are good
Your love’s not broken
It’s not insecure
Your love’s not selfish
Your love is pure
Digging into this truth and this beautiful picture of God’s love for me is so important to keep as a constant reminder. How better to fight the discontentment and distrust from creeping in and threatening to take over than with gratitude. When I look to the cross, look to everything God has done for me, my heart is able to reset and turn these grumblings into gratitude. To repent of a selfish, ungrateful heart and instead open my eyes to the overwhelming gifts around me.
“Humbly let go. Let go of trying to do, let go of trying to control, let go of my own way, let go of my own fears. Let God blow His wind, His trials, oxygen for joy’s fire. Leave the hand open and be. Be at peace. Bend the knee and be small and let God give what God chooses to give because He only gives love. and whisper a surprised thanks. This is the fuel for joy’s flame. Fullness of joy is discovered only in the emptying of will. And I can empty. I can empty because counting His graces has awakened me to how He cherishes me, holds me, passionately values me. I can empty because I am full of His love. I can trust.” – Ann Voskamp
To live with Him truly is the adventure. Each and every day has the potential of being an exciting new experience if I only open my eyes to what God is doing around me. From the unexpected conversations with coworkers or a woman I meet at the grocery store, to digging in deeper with my community and building stronger relationships, experiencing the simple beauties this city has to offer from something as simple as a beautiful sunset and it’s reflections, there are endless possibilities for what this chapter here in Columbia may hold. Although it may be hard to see exactly all that God may choose to use this season for, I know I can trust that He is at work. His promises are true, and I know that He is going to work all these things out for my good (Romans 8:28).
Each day I have a choice: to choose to listen to the grumblings of my heart or to take a posture of gratitude. Walking in this new found truth, I choose to chase the new blessings surrounding me each day, the new that I have to come see as something truly worthwhile.