Monday, July 31, 2017

A Tale of Two Seasons

It was the worst of times, it was the worst of times.

Two years ago, I wrote that 2014 and 2015 had been unkind. Examining those years through the lens of 2017, however, has transformed my memories of that season.  A season that had previously left me reeling, now seemed almost idyllic, in retrospect.  The passage of time softened memories, until seeming catastrophe morphed, instead, into a hazy, nebulous recollection of comparatively easy days.

Our current season has been exceedingly more difficult.  After a relatively brief respite, we found ourselves right back where we began—living through another season of worst—significantly worse than what I had previously declared worst.  So much more fear and trauma now.  Not knowing replaced certainty, and guarantees were nonexistent.  This was uncharted territory.

While I was bratty and insolent throughout the first worst, this second worst has been different.  The first time, peace was elusive.  This time, I was simply granted it.  I am not in pieces now.  I am just…at peace.

The first season of worst, for me, was characterized by striving and contention.  I called it a “knee-buckling” season, and it was.  My knees were buckled, though, not bent, and that is a critical distinction. My knees were buckled beneath the weight of what I refused to give to God.  They were not, bent, to pray. The posture was similar.  The differences were striking.

I fought God, and what He allowed, every step of the way. I admonished when I should have accepted.  I railed, and demanded, and pouted. Since then, I have discovered that hindsight is revelatory, and instructive.  It offers clarity for murky questions that persist long after seasons change. Why was there no measure of peace during our first worst?  It is because peace cannot be conferred upon combatants.  I did not pray, I disputed.  I did not surrender, I took up arms.

Peace requires a cease-fire.  I waged war instead.  I steeled myself against God.  I cloaked myself in anger-encrusted armor that kept Him at bay—impenetrable, impervious, indifferent to His purposes.  My hands were clenched to do battle—not open to receive.

This time—this worse worst—taught me (or reminded me) that calamity is transfigured by surrender.  I resolved, this time, to surrender to the circumstances of our current season.  I did not fight God. I wanted to bring Him glory.  I refused to run from the worst this time.  I decided, instead, to mine it for the treasures hidden there, smack-dab in the middle of what we would never have chosen.

When fear loomed large, God made me brave.  When grief threatened to overwhelm me, He gave me defiant joy.  His nearness ensured that I never wept alone.  His grace proved sufficient and unwavering, time and time again.  His stubborn determination to stay, outmatched my foolish inclination to run.  His presence was palpable, and I was held.

His word was solace for my fragile heart. The truths I had always shared with others in their own seasons of worst, I now appropriated for myself.  God met me there, on the pages of His word.  The season continued, unchanged, but I was transformed.

So many things come out of our trials and tribulations, not the least of which, is the strength—the confidence, even—to face yet more trials and tribulations.  I am learning to embrace accept pain.  I may not be grateful in the pain, or for the pain, but I am grateful for what the pain produces.

God is present in calamity, unveiling for us the hidden joy of a sorrowful season. He knows what we bruised reeds can take, and what we cannot.  I think that is what I want you to knowthat even the worst is bearable when borne by the One Who knew worst at its worst.

I want you to know that what might not seem good, can yield good, when dealt from the hands of a good God. I want you to know that God is always in your corner.  He will not fight with you, but He will fight for you.  The One Who walks alongside, will sanctify your suffering and redeem what He allows.

I want you to know that there is glory that outweighs your pain.  I want you to know that your seasons of worst are not without design, because God is up to something.  God is using what you would never choose, to make you who you would never be, otherwise.

Be still and know, today.  Know that He knows. He knows. Your worst has not escaped His attention.  He has not turned His head.  He is neither unaware, nor unmoved, by your plight.  He has a reason for your season, and His redeeming, relentless love will carry you through, in the best of times and in the worst of times.

“In my deepest wound, I saw Your glory, and it dazzled me.”
William Barclay