Thursday, April 14, 2016

Joy Comes in the Morning: The Trial and Goodness of Waiting

There's nothing like the mountains any time of day, but I've been finding a new love for them in the morning.

Yesterday I ventured into an empty Rocky Mountain National Park before sunrise (with some wonderful, much-needed company from back home in Illinois) to enjoy a cold Colorado morning full of warm coffee and cold photo-taking.

Nature looks different in the light of morning: it is untouched and untapped, not quite used or beheld yet; brand new. Existing in a snippet of time that begins in cold darkness and culminates with an anticipated warming light. 

It reminds me that sometimes our lives look the same way: dark, or quiet, or silent and still, awaiting the light, awaiting something to bring an element of aliveness and life.
To me, there is more joy than fear to be found in the impermanence of life's patterns. The changing of conditions, the coming and going of happiness and sadness, the transience of our own thinking- these things are decidedly human, but they don't have to shake, alter, or dictate our sense of joy. 

We change all the time, things change all the time, life changes all the time. But we also have access to a God who does not. Which means, in a very real way, that darkness need not be clung to. Light cannot long be hidden; we know the universe to ultimately work with and for us when we stand in reverence of our Creator, when we honor what He has done.

Dark seasons, we know, will give way to light ones- even if we don't know what those light ones will look like or hold. They are coming, they are ahead; and when we believe, we can get busy (or stay busy) preparing for them instead of wondering about or over-analyzing the 'why's' of the existence of our pain, misfortune, or not-yet-realized anticipations.

We know: to everything there is a season. And we trust: to every season there is an end- and so a beginning of something new.
And if we're in a dark one (or even just a stagnant one), yes- we have to mourn, or wonder, or feel, or allow ourselves to feel that season's weight. To believe in 'better later' means to be deeply aware of and present in the now (even if now is less than what makes us happy), not avoidant of it. 

I'm learning that belief is a byproduct of perceiving life in a certain way; and that faith is a largely a matter of having the courage to wait for what we can't yet see, knowing all along that it will be delivered, though perhaps at a time we probably wouldn't suspect. It really isn't up to us anyway.

Better will always come- and how we think in the worst times (or even just neutral ones), how we develop our character through the worst times, what we choose to seek in the worst times (or even in general)- those things shape us whether we're paying attention or not. Our conduct when life isn't easy, ideal, or exciting shapes and prepares our character for when things become what we want them to be again.

Our darkness- the seasons that are sad or the seasons in which we are unseen- informs our behavior and character in the light. And what a hopeful joy to know that the light will always come.
It's a beautiful reality. I know in my own life there are things I am still waiting for- not just 'waiting-for-time-to-pass waiting for,' but waiting for with a specifically postured heart: waiting for obediently, diligently, calmly, happily (though sometimes it's not always 'easy' or totally pleasant). Waiting while working to properly usher in their arrival once they do come into my life.

The way we wait says a lot about how much we value the thing we are waiting for. Are we able to exercise self-control and conviction, not giving up our convictions to travel the path of least resistance? 

Are we able to do more than chase or manifest our dreams (or wants, or desires, or relationships)- but know that we will have the wisdom to properly steward and care for them too, once they arrive? More than 'wishful dreaming' (though I am happy to be someone who does exactly that), I want to become someone of action and execution, of taking my dreams and giving them to God while I ask Him to use them for higher, better, more inspiring good.

We have to give forethought to the reality that more than we simply 'want something to happen,' we also want to be able to care, nurture, and invest in that thing over time, well after it becomes ours.
Maybe we're waiting for the growth of a business. Maybe for the growth of a partnership, a person, a relationship; maybe a career move, maybe a new direction in life. Maybe for the growth of a creative endeavor.  

Maybe for the growth of self-love: of starting a new relationship with who we are. Maybe it's our wildest dream, or something simpler. 

Whatever it is, God often makes us wait for it so that He can shape us into the person we are not yet, into someone capable of receiving it and stewarding it well.       

More important than having what we want is becoming who we're supposed to be, our sort of 'best self', which we develop by waiting well: by being committed, by having our eyes set on a goal, and by having that goal lead us to better, higher, greater things.   
I remember being on a train from Chicago to Glacier National Park last August, all by myself, having the space to get away from things, to sit and watch the American landscape go by, to allow myself to crest a season of waiting in my own life: waiting for the freedom that adventure, the wilderness, and open outdoor spaces provide that I so craved in my own life. 

I had been letting that little wish grow over time, silently in my heart beginning many years ago, and culminating- I didn't know then- right now, out here in Colorado, being near to the beauty I have long loved and always wanted to inspire me: my life, my art, my heart, and my thoughts. 

As I watched in solitude the plains roll on for miles, the mountains jut up from the earth out West, the beautiful sky open up for what looked like forever, I thought prayerfully many times on that train that something would be changing in my life soon. 

What did it look like? I didn't know. How would it happen? I didn't know. What would it effect? I didn't know that either. But I felt it coming, a stirring in my heart for more, the invitation of the closeness to my dreams I'm living now.
Soon I would be nearer to this beauty, I felt- which meant that I would also have to let go of a lot back home: jobs, people, comforts, even thought patterns and attachments, with the wild but real hope that venturing out onto the road ahead would be good. Good for me, good for my awareness of and relationship with God, good for my art and my independence and my future. Good, hopefully, for others too.

There is still so much more to wait for. We simply never get it 'all at once' in life, but I wouldn't want to. I've found a new love in setting aside self and waiting for God to move instead. I've found a new way of living in patience, just like that which nature has, moving the seasons at the right time, moving life and death in the right time; letting things incubate and lie in waiting before allowing them to emerge in their most beautiful version; moving them to where they're meant to be.
"If the Lord makes us wait, let us do so with our whole hearts; for blessed are they that wait for Him. The waiting itself us beneficial to us: it tries faith, exercises patience, trains submission, and endears the blessing when it comes." -Charles Spurgeon


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