When The Fog Lifts

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The mark of this season seems to be newness.

Newness of life means new places of risk, which means new places of letting go, which means new places of trust. The recovering independent-spirited-middle-child in me wants to fight it … and the thrill-seeking adventure lover in me kind of loves it.

I’m not sure how the month of August went by so fast, but alas, it has come and gone. Along with half of September. I hope none of you blinked, because you probably missed it. As I was sifting through my journal a couple of weeks ago, I saw this pattern of God doing new things in every area of my life.

New things in my marriage. New things in my friendships. New things in my family. New things in my career. New things in our journey to church plant.

I don’t know if everyone else’s life is like mine, but it seems like when it rains, it pours. Good or bad, once one new thing happens, it seems like it penetrates every little place of my life.

It felt like in the first half of 2013, we were just following a pace car, knowing that the true acceleration point was coming, but still able to just get ready and set. And now, all of a sudden, everything is moving fast and it feels like we’re covering a lot of ground in a little bit of time.

Honestly, at times it feels like we’re moving so fast that everything around us is just a blur. It feels like maybe eventually the ride will stop and we’ll get out and look back and realize we came a long way since the last time we saw things clearly.

And maybe that’s the trusting part of this journey — knowing that when I can’t see, God can, and He is directing my steps anyway, so why am I so concerned with knowing where we’re going all the time?

This past weekend I took a really short trip to Charlotte to surprise my best friend at her engagement party. The last few months have been a bittersweet journey of learning that the day is coming when her husband steps in as best friend and I take the next place in line in her life. In a strange sort of way I feel like learning to release her must be a tiny glimpse of what parenthood feels like.

I think the hardest part, if I’m honest, is that the more I see God doing new things all around me, the more I can’t figure out how it will all fit together. It seems like all the paths I thought were supposed to go to one place are diverging into all different directions.

But He said it would be good. He said he was working all things together for the good of those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28)

This is a promise, right?

So maybe listening to His voice doesn’t always require understanding. Maybe this is what He means when He says it’s the glory of God to conceal a matter, and the glory of kings to search them out. (Proverbs 25:2) 

Back in January, I felt like my year was off to a foggy beginning, and what time has shown is that this was the grace and favor of God on my life to conceal things for a time. And now the fog is lifting, and things are looking different than I thought they would. I remembered that in January I also felt like God said this would be a year of new perspective.

So I boarded a plane back to Texas on Monday morning at 6 a.m., and as we took off, I could see the sun rising behind Charlotte, backlighting the skyline so that I could just see a silhouette of the city. A sweet prophetic picture of the dawning of a new season, where we can vaguely see the outline but are not yet able to see the details.

And a little bit later, in the air and flying over who knows where, I looked down through a layer of hazy, translucent clouds. I could see roads crossing, separating and coming together. I could see a river winding in and through all of it.

It reminded me that when we’re on the road, we can’t see everything. We see the fork in the road right in front of us, but we don’t see the crossroads that happens miles later.

This aerial view was a sweet reminder that it’s all part of a bigger picture. Sometimes our paths cross, and other times they don’t. Sometimes we’re on a winding road and other times we’re on the fast track to the next place. But He is the river of life that winds through it all.

My job is to keep dreaming with God, but He is the Dream Weaver. As I learn to surrender and submit each little dream thread to Him, what I can’t see is that He’s weaving it all together into something beautiful.

Suddenly with this perspective, letting go is a lot easier. I’m not sure when I’ll get to know in full what God is doing with these things I hand over to Him, but it’s OK. I’ll see the fruit of it later when the fog lifts.

Lies the sunset tells.

I love to watch the sunset. If you’re in the right place, like the beaches of California watching the sun set behind the Pacific Ocean, it’s just one of those picturesque moments that stops you in your tracks. I see the glory of God in a sunset. His creativity is put on display in colors that can only truly be brought to life in the sky, painted by his hand. But just a couple of weeks ago, as I was admiring a sunset, I had this thought: Why do we romanticize sunsets and endings so much?

It starts in our childhood. Those stories and fairy tales that always begin with “Once upon a time…” they all have the same ending: “…and they lived happily ever after.” The white horse carries princess and prince charming into the sunset, and the story ends.

But what about the sunsets of our lives? Our sunsets are followed by sunrises — the dawning of new uncertainties. And even worse, the dark, lonely night that lies between the setting of the sun on one day and its rising on the next. So these stories and fairy tales don’t give us a blueprint on how to handle these places in our lives.

We were never told of how Cinderella’s orphan spirit probably took counseling and prayer ministry to work through the first few years of her marriage. Or about the beast’s anger management not just going away overnight when he got his human body back. And what about Snow White, who had seven dwarfs following her around all the time? Talk about baggage!

I know I’m making jokes, but this really is a lie we somehow believe, that our lives are supposed to look something like that. So we get lost when all of a sudden the day after our long-anticipated chapter-closing event takes place. This is why we have post-grad syndrome, and we spend the first few months of marriage saying or thinking, “no one told me __________.” I can imagine new moms might feel this, when they wake up in the middle of the night for feeding/changing/rocking/etc. We think so much about the ending of one season (college, engagement, pregnancy, or anything else, really), that we forget as soon as it ends another will begin.

We spend too much time watching the sunset and romanticizing the ending of something, and then we miss what’s next. So as I was watching the sunset a few weeks ago and thinking about all this, I felt God start to speak into this tendency in me. As I’m romanticizing the ending of one of the most refining, challenging, transforming years of my life, I felt like he said, “Sara, enjoy the sunset while it’s here, but don’t chase it. If you don’t turn around you’ll miss the sunrise — and I have something for you there.”

We chase the sunsets in our lives instead of turning east and facing its rising. And I think one of the reasons we do that is because we fear what’s in between. People handle the space between sunsets and sunrises differently. Some of us rest, and others are restless. Some of us dream and others fight nightmares. Do you see what I’m saying here? Our lives have night times and often they’re called transition. The space between an ending and a beginning.

Well, then I started thinking about sunrises. I’m kind of a night owl so it’s rare that I actually get up to see the sunrise. But there is something about the sunrise — that first glimpse of light into a new day. Sunrises actually speak way more into my personality than sunsets do. Sunsets are a goodbye of sorts, but sunrises are more like an invitation. The adventure of a new day rising and saying, “come and get it.”

Here’s the thing about sunrises, though: they’re full of uncertainty and surprises. Sunsets don’t leave much to be questioned — we all know what comes after them. Night. But sunrises… so much can happen in all the daylight that follows! One time I was in Costa Rica and I went for a sunrise hike with my dad and some friends early one morning. It was breathtakingly gorgeous. But you know what happened as soon as the sun came up and we reached the top? We got charged by a bull and literally ran down half the mountain! Seriously, this is a true story. Sunrises are full of surprises.

They’re not soothing and peaceful in the way that a sunset is, although they’re just as beautiful. Sunrises whisper the mystery of a road untraveled, a story yet to be lived. We should be chasing less sunsets and embracing more sunrises. I really believe this is the will of God for our lives.

God lives in the “to be continued.” His story has never ended, and it never will. Every day he invites us into more with him. Another day, a new adventure. That’s not to say that he doesn’t want us to enjoy the sunset and reflect on the day that’s ending. Noland and I are about to spend two weeks of sunset on this year of our life in Africa. But when we get back, we will stare into the dawn of a new season for us in Waco. And I can’t wait to run wildly into that new day.

Our endings are only meant to push us into new beginnings. And when this life ends, well, eternity begins. And eternity doesn’t have an ending. The sun never sets on eternity.