Tuesday, February 26, 2013
Seasons of Life
A friend recently told me about a women's retreat workshop she attended, Seasons of Life. The speaker, an older woman, just shared her story and how God worked in the different stages of her life, dropping threads and later picking them up again. After the typical life chapters of young wifehood and then motherhood, she went back to college for a doctorate and found a fulfilling career later in life! My friend and I were both encouraged by the reminder that all of our lives have seasons, even if they're more subtle for some of us. It's sometimes difficult for me to grasp this as a single, childless woman with no outside forces acting upon me. For parents, the seasonality of life is very present because children grow up more every day. They create an environment of constant change and adaptation, and a path for your life to follow. Certain careers or situations can have the same effect. But when you're living the same routines and going to the same job for years upon years, no one coming into your life to shake it up, no one further ahead to show you the way, it starts to feel permanent. As well as I know the importance of perspective – that nothing, good or bad, is forever – lately I feel like, Well, this is it. For better or worse, this is my life. For the next fifty years or however long God deems my life to be.
I have an innate need for security and spurn change for change's sake, but the suggestion that this is it has been depressing. For maybe the first time, I'm kind of itching for a change – a positive one, I'm quick to point out to God and the universe. Not, like, a death or layoff or a move to another continent. Not necessarily a huge change, because I'm happy with many things in my life. Just something new and exciting. Some advancement. In the past month or so, I've briefly considered getting a roommate, going back to school for an MFA, and moving into the city to live closer to my friends, among other things. Borderline crazy risks by my standards. None of those things are going to happen (at least anytime soon), but my desire to make these moves even briefly was a neon sign that something is really lacking in my life. I can't do much to bring about the things I really want, so I'm casting around for something I can do. I just feel stuck.
My Sunday school class is studying Elijah right now, and last week's lesson was about Elijah at the brook of Cherith. How it didn't make sense for God, who had just called Elijah to do big things, to send him into the desert where he would be isolated and totally dependent on God for his survival. Personally, I feel like I've been sitting at the brook of Cherith for a long time, slowly watching it dry up, and I've really had enough of the place. I increasingly wonder whether God has forgotten that I'm out here, if I should just build a house and settle in. God has good reasons for desert times of waiting, and I don't want to waste them, but I need some reassurance that the waiting will eventually end and be fruitful and worth it. I wish I was holy enough not to need that, but there you go.
Thankfully, I have found some comfort in Isaiah 49. Confession: sometimes I have trouble taking the promises of the Bible to heart. I'll think, This verse probably applies only to a specific group of Israelites from thousands of years ago, and not to me at all. But when I read Isaiah 49 this week, I knew God was speaking to me.
Can a woman forget her nursing child,
that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb?
Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you.
Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands;
your walls are continually before me.
I was bemused by the "walls" reference, but according to my study Bible, it refers to the walls of Jerusalem that were demolished during the siege of the city by the Babylonians… and God's intention to restore them. To think that God not only hasn't forgotten about the rubble of my torn-down walls, but also remembers them constantly and still has plans to rebuild… well, that helps. It helps a lot.