on reflecting, on summertime

Well, I’ve been back in the real world for something like two weeks now and I’ve just now realized that nobody has any idea what’s going in on my life. 

Windy Gap was so incredible. So incredible…I’m struggling to find the words. I don’t know if words will ever really suffice, which I think means I’m lucky. That I got to experience something that the bounds of human language cannot adequately contain. It all feels like a dream. I mean, who gets to live at Young Life camp for three months with 14 roommates? I keep thinking back to finals week in May when I was packing and running around and studying metaphysics and going back and forth between Weaverville and Spartanburg, a strung-out and dried-up mess, not really expecting that God would be able to chip away at the callous I’d allowed to form over my once-vulernable beating mess of a heart…and oh, did He ever. He met me there in a profound way that I never even dreamed was possible, if I’m being honest. He was waiting there for me, waiting for me to realize my broken state and see that life wasn’t meant to be lived the way I had been, as an isolated, selfish little girl, refusing to ask for help, refusing to believe that freedom really could exist for me. 

And so if you ask me what I learned this summer, I’ll probably cry and then gather my thoughts and then speak of the freedom I was shown. Real freedom. I’m talking an actual refusal to be held back any longer by the bondage and darkness of the enemy, and instead be renewed by a desire to be in the light, to be free. Maybe you’ve gotten that before, maybe everybody understands that, maybe you’re already there…but man, I just wasn’t getting that. Or I had forgotten, at least. I don’t know how you forget about something that good.

But looking back on this summer, I am thankful, simply put. I’m…relieved and elated to say that my season of defeat and despair and depression has come to a close, I think. I say I think because it’s early, but also with the peace of growing in the Lord and knowing that struggling with things doesn’t make me go down a few notches on his “love you” meter. And that makes me even more ready and expectant of this next season, which is bringing along so many new things…turning 21, my senior year of college, 7 friends getting engaged, a new year of being a YL leader and seeing what the Lord does with that…just so many things, that in the light of this newfound and rediscovered freedom, I am so thankful that the work is the Lord’s and does not rest on me, but leaves me free to rely on Him. Because what I’ve learned the hard way, over many years, is that saying I trust the Lord but not actually relying on Him is really just saying that I trust myself. 

More on all of this later, but to sum up the beginning of my processing process, this is an excerpt from a book that I can’t put down; it’s one of those refreshing moments when you read words on a page by someone else that are strikingly similar to the thoughts in your head. It’s all so relevant to where I’m standing right now, between seasons. 

“Change has the potential to open you up, to open life up, to deliver you right into the palm of God, which is where you wanted to be all along, except that you were too busy pushing and pulling your life into exactly what you thought it should be.

But for a long season, I forgot all the things I believed about God. I didn’t stop believing in God. It wasn’t a crisis of faith. I prayed and served and pursued a life of faith the way I had before that season and the way I still do now. But I realized all at once, sitting in church on a dark night, that the story I was telling was the wrong one – or at the very least, an incomplete one. I had been telling a story about how hard it was. That’s not the whole story. The rest of the story is that I had failed to live with hope and courage and lived instead a long season of whining, self-indulgence, and fear. That is my confession. Looking back now, I can see that it was more than anything a failure to believe in the story of who God is and what he is doing in this world. Instead of living that story – one of sacrifice and purpose and character—I began to live a much smaller story, and that story was only about me. I wanted an answer, a timeline, and a map. I didn’t want to have to trust God or anything I couldn’t see. I didn’t want to wait or follow. I wanted my old life back, and even while I read the mystics and the prophets, even while I prayed fervently, even while I sat in church and begged God to direct my life, those things didn’t have a chance to transform me because under those actions and intentions was a rocky layer of faithlessness, fear, and selfishness. If I’m honest, I prayed the way you order breakfast from a short-order cook: This is what I want. Period. This is what I want. Aren’t you getting that? I didn’t pray for God’s will to be done in my life, or at any rate, I didn’t mean it. I prayed to be rescued, not redeemed. I prayed for it to get easier, not that I would be shaped in significant ways. I prayed for the waiting to be over, instead of trying to learn something about patience or anything else for that matter.

I want to live a new way. A way I’ve always believed, but temporarily lost sight of.”

Shauna Niequist, Bittersweet