“It’s been the best summer of my life.”
That was the caption on someone’s Instagram photo that made me pause until the car behind me honked because the light had turned green. “It’s been the best summer of my life.” The phrase didn’t resonate with me, exactly, so much as it made me wince.
This summer has been different than all of the others. I’ve said it to about a million different people: “The Lord has taught me so much in this season–maybe more than the last four years put together.” Then I offer a laugh and say, completely seriously, “But I’m ready for it to be over.” I would insist that I know it’s just a season, that I don’t believe God had forgotten about me as I watched all of the people closest to me slip into their Great Big Plans. I was talking to my best friend, an elementary school teacher, who started school on Aug. 5th. “Summer’s over for me,” she said. Summer can’t be over, I thought, panicked. I haven’t figured a single thing out and this was supposed to just be a season.
I thought about summer again today, though. I thought about how it’s been a season of changing and breaking and losing and longing. I thought about how I’ve learned to sing quietly, despite the rain (it was a rainy summer, no?) I learned how to trust despite fear, to return again and again to my anchor of hope, to insist on joy. I learned how to take my perspective and wrangle it with the strength I’ve gained so that I become smaller, so that the thorns in my side ease their pinching. My troubles are still there, my longings still loud, my fear still fierce, but when I consider the providence, I lose my breath in wonder.
I thought about how I’ve learned how to pray. And I thought about how my prayers have changed: In April, I was asking for a job. Yesterday, I was thanking for that providence. Every single day, I have a come-to-Jesus meeting with Jesus himself. Every single day, I walk away from those meetings leaking courage he poured into me: “Do not be afraid, little flock.”
And of course, I have learned how to say goodbye, or at least that you can’t learn how to do that.
I’ve told people, too, that I wouldn’t want to change it–I worry now what might have happened to me if I’d had a full-time job offer right out of college. First, let me tell you where I sit: On my friend’s couch, without a full-time job or a permanent address in the city to which I’ve been called. I’m not telling you that I’ve gotten things all figured out, that I’ve mastered trust when I don’t know anything more than where I’m going tonight. But this much is true: I worry now that I wouldn’t know how to recognize peace that surpasses understanding if I wasn’t sitting here. I worry that I wouldn’t know what it’s like to stop treading water and instead walk on it, my eyes fixed on the Giver of all good things. I worry that I would tell you all of this–tell you I have a God who is real and true, who provides and comforts, who hears and loves just as much as the Bible says He does–and you would shrug your shoulders, because, well, I’m sitting on my own couch in my own apartment with my nice job, and you, you’re on your friend’s couch. So hear me loud: Here, He is here. And I wouldn’t change this.
There’s been much fear this summer, as you might know if you’ve talked to me at all. But I suspect the fear was always there, stifled by the security of doing things right and having a plan and walking down the paths I’d picked out for myself. Here, this summer, all of that has melted, and I was left to decide whether I was going to be afraid or drink my coffee. Sometimes I choose fear, and sometimes I worry that I am going to get to Heaven and the first thing I’ll hear from God will be, “Why were you always so afraid?”
What I’m learning is this: When I catch sight of the throne, when I run up to it and get bathed in grace again, it’s me who looks in the mirror and asks that question. It’s Abba who, with one glance, calms my heart.
This is my summer recap. These are the lessons that haven been sown into my marrow over and over. I have learned, if I’ve learned anything, that the things I’ve been taught this summer are up for debate every day; trusting God can be unlearned with one fell swoop of the heart, with one glance at the bank account, with another blog post that declares, “I still don’t know what I’m doing.” I’ve learned it’s every single day, many times a day, that I look up, breathe like I mean it, give it up again.
Recently, a good friend of mine asked me what was next after Tuscaloosa. I smiled and told her I was still praying for opportunity in Birmingham. “So you’re going to take a leap of faith if you don’t have a job by then?” “Yes,” I said that day.
What I’ve learned is that steps of faith lead to a life of faith. And if that was the only thing I learned all summer, it would still be the best summer I’ve ever had.