I’ve found some time to steal away to Frothy Monkey and reflect, which is something I don’t get to do nearly as much as I’d like to with the pace of life and obligations I have. I truly love this place except for the meaningless hipster music they play. “I have built a tree house / It’s a you and me house.” Ok…? Headphones in.
But this writing is spurred by a question I heard this week, a question that, at first blush, didn’t really seem to have an obvious or profound answer for me. The question was, “What has God been showing you in this past year?” I hadn’t sat and reviewed a June to June period of time since high school, probably. My life doesn’t revolve around that cycle anymore, so I really didn’t think there was anything exceptional coming to light for me over that particular period of time. I was ready to fabricate some nice-sounding answer when I began thinking about where I was a year ago versus where I am now. That was when I stepped back to actually evaluate the difference.
This time a year ago was a definite pinnacle. I was just getting deeply involved with Ethos, and I was just coming off a couple of months at work that were amazing in both the magnitude and significance of what we accomplished as a team. Add to that the fact that I had just moved to a new, bigger space up in Nashville and closer to all my friends, and the image begins to come clear. Glory days. It’s an unabashedly cheesy term, but how else can I adequately describe days upon which I will always look back with fondness? But what about the present day? I’m still wonderfully content with where I am in life, and some facets seem even more ripe with excitement and potential, but on the whole I feel much more tired and less excited than I did a year ago. Why? I still work at the same excellent place, I’ve gotten even more deeply involved at Ethos by taking on some responsibilities, and I now live in the larger room of the same duplex in the same perfect location. But maybe that’s the problem.
I have realized how much my independent life was fueled by the excitement of constant change. College provided the perfect rhythm of new things every four months, always some new class or group of friends or experience to grow in. And that same energy fed almost completely by a sense of newness carried me perfectly through the first eight months as a permanent resident of Nashville. So when I would hit the occasional spot of discontent last fall or winter, I always found something else to which I could attribute it. Shortening days or spiritual funks or something else was surely why I felt run down, not because I had never learned to persevere at a certain steady, unchanging station in life until I’m called to something else. Sure, I could broadly define “student” as one of those stations, but any time living under my parents’ roof doesn’t count at all, and there is nothing steady or unchanging about undergraduate education. The heart of the matter is that I’ve never had to stay in one place and do the same thing while I am completely free to uproot and pursue something else. But that’s precisely what I am having to learn now.
A few months ago I read a post on Donald Miller’s blog about “plowing your field.” At the time I thought it applied to pretty much everyone but me, but reading it late last night I realized how completely I needed to hear it. He writes about working where God has put you and not being envious of people around you and how almost anything can be a “field” God has given you to plow. While that sounds biblical, I wasn’t really sure if it was. (I’m often suspect about calling anything biblical that could potentially make life easier). But sure enough Paul writes, “In every church I tell the people to stay as they were when the Lord Jesus chose them and God called them to be his own. Now I say the same thing to you,” (1 Cor 7:17). This is in the midst of a chapter focused on marriage, and at this stage in life it’s certainly easy to see that as another new and exciting thing to move on to. But in light of that verse and Donald Miller’s post, I see a great deal of discipline and maturity in not continually searching for the next thing as soon as the shine has worn off of something you once adored as new. At Ethos we even talk about how flighty church culture can be, where as soon as a certain body stops meeting someone’s needs, they’re likely to go try something new. People are certainly called to different places and things, but more often than not I suspect my generation specifically simply gets bored when the newness wears off. We thrive on newness and newness alone.
Having realized what is going on, that I am in a season of perseverance and plowing my field, I further understand that I may be here for awhile. It’s not for me to go and search out anything new and different simply because I haven’t learned how to garner joy or excitement from an everyday rhythm without big changes on the horizon. And I know that no discipline could be more important if I am to prepare myself for a lifelong commitment for one person someday in marriage. I’ve read enough books to know that the honeymoon wears off, even if I don’t yet completely grasp what that means looking in from the outside. If my life plays out even remotely normally, it will be long, vast stretches in a handful of different fields, not fast-paced montages. I’m beginning to think that part of growing is understanding this and committing to live accordingly until God undeniably speaks.
So the year or years ahead will almost certainly be a season of perseverance, and I hope that like any new thing in life (ironic), the first time is the hardest. I am prepared to stay and plow this field, committed to the people and places with which the Father has connected me hoping to see the harvest rather than stubbornly choosing the life of a nomadic forager, merely utilizing the land for its easy pickings before leaving it in my wake.