Image by C. Glowacki.
After a long day at work last week, I drove to Rollins College (an old, romantic campus near my office) and I sat by myself on a bench near a lake.
I’d been restless all day.
Recently, I’ve gotten into the funny habit of speaking peace over my own heart. There’s no shortage of things in this world (and within our own thoughts) eager to steal it so reminding myself of God’s truths and the true nature of things propelled into His care has been a good habit.
This particular day, my best efforts were futile. My mind had settled into a discomfort I couldn’t quite put into words.
I’m reading a book about trees these days and learning a lot about the nature of their growth. Pruning a young tree, or cutting the branches back, helps them grow in the right direction and removes diseased wounds. They are cut so they are healed. The process forces them to grow strong enough to weather storms. I get why Jesus drew a parallel between this process and certain seasons He fosters into our lives.
I’ve also been reading the Bible again after a long time outside the church. Outside the church is a light way to put it. I spent almost two years scoffing at American Christian culture, resenting the simplicity and struggle of it. I didn’t want to struggle. I didn’t want to be authentic or trust or live with unseen faith. I just wanted to live.
But my definition of “living” was distorted by things putting more value on, well, everything, above Christ. And there’s always collateral damage to that. It’s a sad story but it’s not a new one.
Trees are cut so they are healed. And so are we.
I used to think when Scripture referenced the nature of creation as one of conflict, it only meant the world outside of our bodies. It made sense to me that wrestling tectonic plates and rising seas were crying to be freed from decay and unrest, ushered into the restoring presence of God once and for all. I now realize that, much like his thoughts on the vine and the branches, this truth speaks not only to creation beyond us but also creation within us.
I was frustrated that day on the lake. I was frustrated and wearied under the eager expectation for the restoration of all my wandering had wrought.
I prayed for faces I loved and sat there, silently waiting for the soil within me to quit moving when I noticed a girl swimming in the water I sat across.
She had walked to the end of the pier and jumped in while I had been in my own thoughts. A longing to return to dirt and earth and belong to something simpler woke up in me. I walked to the end of the pier and jumped in wearing my gym clothes.
Suddenly, it was just me and the lake and the smiling stranger in the lake who cheered me on with a ‘hang loose’ shake of her hand. I smiled back in a way that said, “I’m trying” and floated back. We each had a sense of our own rebellion in that moment—leaving the pressures of schedules and traffic and iPhone notifications to return to life itself. And on a Thursday afternoon no less, while the rest of the world pressed on without us.
I sank into the scandal and disappeared, tangling my feet through moss as I looked up at the sky and prayed to be untangled from my fears. The restlessness never disappeared and I admit I thought a jump in a lake would do it. Instead, it floated along with me. As I swam further out, the Winter Park estates felt smaller under the expanse I looked out onto. And so did I and all the concerns I carry within me in this life.
In that moment, my own being in this world made sense.
In the darkness of the lake, in the parallels of my fear for the future and what was swimming along below me, in the face of a God I realized I can’t control or distance or surprise, I grasped that I’ve always made sense. He made both light and darkness out of nothing and said, “good.”
He’s not scared of the wilderness within me or anyone else.
At least that’s what He spoke over me as He continued painting the skies while I watched, changing colors every few minutes, reminding me that each time I think He’s completed, He longs to show me glories I don’t have names for yet.
I disappeared under the water and thought of the people I missed, praying they knew God was with them in the wilderness too.