I like change, as long as I can keep the old things I like. When I was a kid, I liked growing, but hated that it meant I had to leave behind favorite shirts. Sometimes I would have rather not grown. As I’ve gotten older, the changes have gotten bigger, and I’ve had to leave friends and hobbies behind. At the time, it’s always painful. But on the other side of the change, I can look back and see what He’s done, even though it hurts so much to have those things taken from you.
When He we moved away from ballet and my friends in Michigan – I was left with only Him and my family for a time. Now I’m very thankful for that, but I remember that at the time, I fought it.
I only wish it got easier to leave things behind as we’ve done it more, but at least I am really good at forgetting the growth and good that come from it. Sometimes I wish God would tell us our life ahead of time, so we could prepare for what’s ahead. So we could know when it’s the last time we see a good friend. But I know at the same time it might break us, if we knew the person we married was going to die when your first daughter was two and your second daughter was in the womb (Mr. Hinkson), or the piano teacher you said “see you next year,” to wouldn’t make it to the reunion at Christmas (Dr. Hsu), or the friend who spoke one Easter about understanding and believing in its meaning – and then seemed to grow in the following years – would now be denying the existence of God. I’m glad I don’t know things like that. But that doesn’t stop me from wishing I knew if/how may more I have more summers at Csehy (was that the last time I’ll see some of those friends?), more Fridays at UCCD, more years with my family, or here or there.
During Csehy 2008, I was struggling a lot with change. I don’t remember what those things were; I just remember clinging to the line in “Abide with Me” – “O Thou who changest not, abide with me.” These things that fade and pass away are not all there is. We want to think we can control events, steer at the helm – but that’s God’s job. But, He is the one who doesn’t change – He abides forever, and He is ultimate. I stumbled across a quote by Jonathan Edwards that says this very well:
“Earthly fathers and mothers, husbands, wives, children and earthly friends, are all “shadows”. But God is the “substance”.”
Earthly things are shadows. God is substance. Last year I thought a lot about how we often love the shadow more than the glory. We love these things that are pictures of who He is more than we love and long for Him. There are three areas in particular where I’ve really thought about this over the past year.
1. Missions. Perhaps you’ve heard John Piper’s statement about missions not being ultimate, but worship being ultimate. This, in many ways, is a joyful thought, that it will pass away, because it means He is being worshiped. Yet, we cannot put it on a higher level than God. We can’t desire the conversion of the nations more than we desire HIM. The nations are but a drop in the bucket. They’re so small a part of His glory and His plan.
2. Friendships. Leaving Csehy this year was hard. It’s easier to come back as a camper. Returning feels unstable now that I’ve finished my years as a camper. That made goodbyes harder, thinking about saying farewell to people who have helped me grow spiritually, musically, and relationally, knowing it may be the last time I ever see them on earth. There are other friendships that over the years have faded, or are starting to fade. Yet, there’s comfort in knowing our friendships have not been in vain. We’ve sharpened each other, spurred each other on to love and good deeds, and encouraged each other on to Christ and Christ-likeness. It passes away, but we have the joy in knowing that we have helped each other, and sweet memories, and thankfulness for people like that that we totally don’t deserve. But it’s so hard to leave them behind, and go on to new people and new places. Sometimes those old friends need to drill it into us again and again “Change is good. Change is good.” Growing pains are called growing pains for a reason. But none of us wish we hadn’t grown when we weather the storm.
3. Marriage. This was really driven home by this couple. They got married, because they knew marriage wasn’t the end, but a means to the end of glorifying God. Marriage is for the life of the couple – it doesn’t end until one of them dies. Because of that, we often forget that it’s a season, like singleness or childhood. This too shall pass. If we place too much on this shadow – a picture of Christ and the church – whether it’s longing for it or holding it too dear while in it – then we forget the glory of Christ and the church, the reality marriage pictures (this is not a Matrix sort of view. Marriage is real life, but it is not ultimate, not the end). It’s a shadow; you can’t hold it. This isn’t to downplay marriage and its commitment at all – but it will pass away. We cannot hold it too dear; you can only do that with Christ or you shall be devastated.
There are other things, too, like music and writing, that will someday pass away, at least in the way I know them now. That’s hard. I posted this quote before, but will post it again, because it fits here. If we place our purpose and seek satisfaction in these temporary shadows, we will never be satisfied.
“You will never know a purpose, never find a reason great enough to satisfy your endles hunger to play and perform, unltess you learn what it means to live with a deep and abiding faith in your Savior. All else is sham. All else is the ultimate lie, a lie you tell both to yourself and to Christ.” – From the Maestro, T. Davis Bunn
There’s a time for missions. A time for friends. A time for marriage. But there’s also a time when they will all fade away when we come to the substance – when there is no missions because He is being worshiped, when in heaven friendship is different, when we are the Bride of Christ. It’s hard to leave these things behind – but what’s on the other side is far, far greater.
There’s things I miss from past years. But as long as the growth is toward Christ, life is only going to get richer, though maybe harder, until that final day when faith becomes sight.
At this point, I plan on sending in a counselor application. But whether or not I get to go and serve at Csehy as a counselor is not ultimately up to me; it’s up to God. And I’m not afraid to submit myself to Him and His Will, because I know who He is. I know He is the God in Isaiah 40, who is both gentle and powerful. Some days I need a big dose of Isaiah 40 – in otherwords, like God did to Elijah, I need to remind myself who He is, that He is big enough and powerful enough for these things, and He will sustain me through my life and His purpose will prevail. Then read Ephesians and Romans 8 along with that, and be comforted in knowing the gifts He’s given us, and the promise of conformity to Christ.
Quotes from Duncan’s War that have aided this: “Duncan, ye or I donnae ken the ways of the Lord, now do we? … we so want our heaven just now and here on this earth. But God has ordained crosses for our greater sanctification, lad. Worthy Mr. Rutherford put it this way: ‘The cross of Christ is the sweetest burden that ever I bear; it is such a burden as wings to a bird or sails to a ship, to carry me forward to my harbor.’”
Change hurts – but on the other side, having come through by the power and in the plan of YHWH, it can be beautiful. I’m glad I’m not the same person I was in 2008, or even in 2011. Or even a month ago. He reshapes us to be in His image. And that is joyous.
Speaking of not being able to hold on to the temporal – I can’t believe it’s October already. Time flies.