“Changing tides, baby that’s the hardest part of life.” – Isaac Slade, The Fray
I’ve heard it said that the hardest part of our lives is where we are transitioning from one version of ourselves to another, and I couldn’t agree more. For me, the past couple weeks have been rough. Not to say that there haven’t been great moments, because there has, but I think that it’s been eventful to say the least.
The past saturday, I spent the day by myself, which is how I’ve found myself a lot lately. But sitting on the bank of Lake Michigan, I couldn’t help but bring myself to think of the one place that has touched me more than any other place in the world: Many Glacier.
I believe everyone has a soul place, a place where they feel free, the most connected to God…a place they long to be when they’re away from it for even the slightest bit of time. For me, that place is Many Glacier. (For those of you who don’t know, Many Glacier is located in Glacier National Park in Montana.) Over the past few weeks, I’ve been overcome with a whirlwind of emotions, but reflecting on my recent trip back to Many a few weeks ago, I think about this next season of my life and how uncertain everything is.
A lot has happened in my 24 years of living: Unspoken suicide attempts. My father’s passing. Depression. Recovering from an alcohol addiction. Drifting apart from old friends. Moving. Graduating College. Unexpected changes. Gaining new family members.
All of these things, these circumstances, have led me to where I am today. Every interaction and conversation I’ve had with someone has impacted my life in some shape or form.
When I left glacier last summer, I left feeling exhausted…mentally, physically, and spiritually. I didn’t really understand why things played out the way that they did until I actually took the time to reflect on it. Someone told me that when we feel distance from God, it’s not because he left us. God is always with us. When we feel that distance, it’s when we stop placing Him as a priority in our life. We put our relationship with Him on the back burner and try to control everything that is going on in our life, and sometimes in the lives of others.
The words “growth” and “priorities” have popped up a lot in the past few months. Life can be funny sometimes. Time seems to pass by quicker than we think, and in the amount of time, we can feel as if we learned nothing. But with the right perspective, we can see the change. Our attitudes and opinions shift slightly based upon the things we’ve gone through and the people we surround ourselves with.
Someone recently asked me what my five-year plan looked like…and I’ll be completely honest: I don’t have one. It’s not to say that they don’t work, I’m sure they do for others, but for me, I just don’t find it realistic. Yes, I have things that I want to accomplish, however, I’ve learned that you cannot place a specific timeline on your life. Had this person asked me a few years ago, I probably could’ve given them a definitive answer, but ever since my dad died, I’ve had a different way of thinking. I hardly know what I’m doing five months from now, let alone five years. I’ve learned that yes, dreams and goals help aspire us to become something, but everyone has a different timeline, and despite what society tells us on when we should have certain things done by, I just don’t find it attainable to have a “set plan” for how my life is going to turn out.
As I drove back to Wisconsin this past week, there was a song that came on as my friend and I were driving through the plains of North Dakota. The song was called, “Journey On” by Elms District. The song repeats itself over and over in a lulling and reflective way, saying:
“You’ve only got one more river to cross. One more storm to go through. You’ve only got one more journey to walk, and know the waters wide. You’ve only got one more mountain to climb. One more hand to reach for. You’ve only got one more journey to walk, and you’re on the other side.”
I had never heard that song up until that moment, but I felt as if it was a way that God was speaking to me. (Side note: God is always speaking to us, in many different ways. It’s just a matter of if we’re taking the time to listen or not.) Mountains and valleys, as cliché as they are, are good representation of the trials we face in life. All vary in size and shape, but the duration of time it takes to get to the top (or through the trial in this case) is entirely dependent on how long we’re willing to climb or endure the pain.
Something that has been on my heart for a while is that we are constantly worried about everything in our life. What is our next job is going to be? Where should I live? What if I lose my job? Why don’t I feel good enough? What if this person doesn’t like me? And so on and so forth. I know personally, I put certain expectations upon myself in hopes that I will appease society and the people around me. But tell me, when did we start living for the opinions of other people? When did we stop living life the way God says we should? Where did our confidence and self-esteem go?
I think we have so much trouble just giving up and into God because we’ve become accustomed to the temporary things of this world and have forgotten what we know about God. What do we know about own? The Bible tells us he created this entire Earth and every soul that wanders it. He created me, you, your best friend, that person you just can’t seem to get along with.
He created every planet and star in the universe. The hands that so carefully rolled stars in his palms formed your soul. Not only that, but he knows every thought you’ve had; he sees your soul and knows you better than you know yourself and yet he loves you just the same. He’s mapped out your life with perfect precision. The creator of the universe looks upon you with love and you are worthy in his eyes. This beautiful, glorious world and life he created for you. He died on the cross with you in his heart so that you could have and experience that.
So why is it so hard? Why is it so hard to for us to let go of this world and throw ourselves at his feet? We still focus on these evanescent things That distract us from this wonderful truth. We become slaves to our reputations, the acceptance of others and we measure our worth by these things and push God to the side. BUT, we need to realize that putting God first and losing all of these other distractions doesn’t mean losing happiness; it means gaining joy.
It’s hard because we let it be hard. When we think of losing the world, we think of losing everything, but this world is not everything. The word “heaven” is mentioned in the Bible 457 times, the word “world” 190… how much more important do you think eternal life is then this temporary, short one? How incredible do you think it will be when he takes our faces in his nail-scarred hands, looks us in the eyes and tells us how much he loves us? Whatever you think, it’s infinitely better. God promises us a hope and a future. So, give into that greater power. Because with it, you are promised eternal joy and love from the One who lived and died for you.
The scripture says, “God will give you beauty for ashes.” Ashes here represents our broken dreams, our failures, our disappointments and our hurts. That’s the key here: you have to let go of the ashes before you can receive the beauty…if you won’t let go of the old, you can’t receive the new.
In Acts, Peter learned to be content with what he had. Which is remarkable since he had so little. He had a jail cell instead of a house. He had four walls instead of a mission field. He had chains instead of jewelry, a guard instead of a wife. How could he be so content? Simple. He had focus on a different list.
He had eternal life. He had the love of God. He had forgiveness of sins. He had the surety of salvation. He had Christ, and Christ was enough. What he had in Christ was far greater than what he didn’t have in life.
Romans 8:18 (NIV) says, “The pain that you’ve been feeling, can’t compare to the joy that’s coming.”
With that in mind, it’s okay to question, to doubt. But don’t dwell there. The answers we want from God might not come dramatically. They might not be in front of our face. But maybe if we keep going, keep asking all the questions that get laid on our hearts, something miraculous might happen: we might find a few answers or we might find peace with the not knowing.
There is mercy and grace in asking big questions. To ask big questions is to go before our God, who handles all parts of us — our junk, our nastiness, our hopes and our failures. I think God is big enough for your big questions and bigger than any frustrations we can possibly have.
Life is uncertain. It always has been. We never know when our time on Earth will come to and end. But, I’m not here to live in the worries of tomorrow. I’m here to live today, in the now, in this very moment in time. I don’t know what will happen in these upcoming months, but I know one thing that holds true: I will continue to pursue the calling God has placed on my life and I will continue to glorify Him in all that I do, trusting that everything will work out the way it’s meant to in due time.