"How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face..."
~"When You are Old" by W.B. Yeats
Many of you know that I journal and have for many years. This past weekend I went to a wedding of two college friends and saw several classmates from my time at Freed-Hardeman University. After arriving home from the reception, I went to my shelves and pulled out one of the journals from 2004. I read through the account of my fall semester and each event that took place. Pasted in the pages of the journal were ticket stubs, greeting cards, and quotations from poetry including this quotation from Yeats. I won't say those days were perfect, but my first two and a half years of college were a time of great personal growth for me. I grew socially as well as spiritually on the quiet campus. I remember the girl that reminded me of this poem, and I recall how I felt then for a brief moment that I might actually become all that I wanted to be. I had such an ideal that I aspired to and I had a confidence that everything would eventually turn out. Looking back, I think about what I wanted then and what I want now. I read through pages and pages of hopes that were deferred and plans that never came to be. I am so glad that I wrote then about the things that were truly on my heart and I pray that the pages I write today will be a source of comfort years from now.
On the opposite page of the journal from the Yeats quote, I had written out the lyrics of the old hymn, "Prince of Peace, Control My Will." The opening verse reads,
"Prince of Peace, control my will,
Bid this struggling heart be still,
Bid my fears and doubtings cease -
Hush my spirit into peace."
Although I was confident all would come right, my emotions at the time were conflicted about where I was headed in my life. My mind was muddled with questions of romance, spiritual discipline, and God's call upon my life. I was very happy then, but I was still quite confused about which way to turn. For all the happiness and all the possibilities that lay before me then, I don't want to go back to those times. I want to continue to go forward from today daring to embrace the unknown. I am still not sure where I am headed, but I am more focused than ever on embracing the journey. Ten years ago, I had no idea of the turbulent road that lay ahead. I had no idea that my twenties would prove to be a battle for survival. I had no idea that I would ever be called upon to bear so much. Now, for the first time in many years, I am able to believe today that tomorrow will be better. We all have our burdens to bear and our loads to carry. The enemy attempts to tell us that we are alone in our suffering and that God has been unkind to ask so much of us.
When I looked around the other night at the wedding, I saw friends that have born up under great loss and great trial. I was reminded of friends who have lost parents in the years since last I saw them. I saw friends who know the heartache of divorce and the bitterness of unanswered prayer. I saw friends living with the fears of parenthood, the hardships of raising their children, and I saw others that have suffered setbacks in their professions and in their personal lives. I also was reminded of the many joys and happinesses that these same people have experienced. To the casual observer, there is no recognizable reason that some people find a greater share of joy than others. We who are people of faith trust that there is a larger plan than what we can see and that quality of life is determined by faithfulness over time rather than any momentary grief or joy.
One of Satan's greatest lies is the myth that life should be fair and that if things aren't going as I planned then God must be ungracious. In Scripture, we see that the righteous suffer hardships just as the wicked do. If the last ten years have given me anything of value, it is the ability to better identify with the sufferings of others. When I see loved ones hurting, I can now empathize to a degree that I could not before. The crucible of personal suffering prepares a person for service in a way that nothing else can. I continue to hope that there has been a purpose for my pain and that God will continue to reveal that purpose in His good time.
I believe my friends who were married the other night would tell you that one of the reasons their relationship is filled with so much joy is because of all the detours they took to come together. When a heart is broken, it can grow back stronger than before. All the heartbreak of former years led them to become two people who are now deeply in love. When our broken hearts are at last mended, we have so much to offer out of our difficult experiences. I pray that God will use our individual brokenness for His ultimate glory and that we will each find our joy in service to Him and service to each other.
Thanks for reading and have a great week!