Wednesday, October 24, 2012

longing, heartache, and the north wind

Several years ago, fifteen to be exact, I was a young girl and my family had just moved from Illinois to Southern California.  Many tears were shed in the days leading up to, during, and after that move.  We left our extended family and close friends behind...and at 10 years old I didn't think that I could recover until we moved back.

I clung hard to the memories.  I kept a box of things that reminded me of my best friends from Illinois.  There were letters mailed and phone calls.  There were visits from Grandparents that were always wonderful and always too short.  There were tears shed before bed and dreams that I fought to stay in as I awoke, dreams that had magically transported me back to our old home... which were strange and unlike the real thing, but a part of it nonetheless.

I couldn't understand why God had moved us away, and struggled with that for a long time.

My family moved again, this time to Fresno, California.  Gradually, as we made friends and grew to love the beautiful state we lived in, I became more accustomed to the idea of being there... even as my heart longed to be back with family once again.

By the end of my junior year of high school, our family faced another change.  We were finally moving back to Illinois.  Our stay in California was over.  A wide ranging storm of emotions came over me at that time and felt I would drown in them.  By the time I had really grown to love where we were, it was time to go.  Those years in California, though challenging at times, were full of wonderful memories, a very sweet time in my family's history.  Many lessons learned, many experiences shared.

As I look back at that time, do I wish that none of the changes had happened?  Would it have been easier to have never moved, never have felt the heartache in the first place?  Or to never have moved back from California and stayed there the rest of our lives?

In the past I would have said yes to any of those questions.  "Spare me the pain, please" would have been my response.  But removal of pain isn't always this answer.  Think of the famous quote... "Tis better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all."

I was thinking about a variation of this to fit my experience, "It is better to have lived and missed than to never have lived at all."  Less poetic, but you get the idea.

I think we need to allow ourselves the freedom to miss things and then challenge ourselves to be content if things never return to their former glory.  It doesn't mean that the glory and joy of life have passed away, it has simply changed.  And you will miss the now when it is gone too.

Looking back now I can see God orchestrating all things for good, and I'm so thankful that He is in control.  So many good things would never have happened if I had had my own way and been able to spare myself from pain.

Living to protect ourselves from hurting is a good way to hurt ourselves.  We are going to have heartache and sadness, we are going to miss things and wish for different circumstances no matter where we are.  Why not find a way to love the here and now?

Find a way to live fully.  As Jim Elliot once said, "Wherever you are, be all there."  A simple little quote, but a challenging one indeed.

But what about when the pain is too great?  When the people that we have lost were so dear we look to heaven and like Job wish that we had never seen the light outside our mother's womb?  The deep and abiding missing of things leads me to thoughts of heaven.  To the day that God will wipe away every tear from our eyes.  There will be no more longing, no more aching of separation but peace within the arms of God.

I look forward to heaven knowing that the God who made every good thing here, and there are many good things here despite the fallen nature of our world, has created an eternity that is beautiful and perfect and good.

The God who made the roaring ocean, sunsets streaked with purple clouds, soft velvety puppy ears, chubby baby fingers, blinding lightning, fiery red autumn leaves, musical notes that make us cry, joyful laughter, breathtaking spring wind, and dew covered grass knows how to create a pleasing, magnificent existence.  How much greater will forever be than now?

I just finished reading At the Back of the North Wind by George MacDonald last night.  Early on in the book a little boy named Diamond is befriended by the North Wind.  She takes him on adventures and one day she allows him to visit her back.  At the back of the North Wind there is no suffering or pain, but beauty and glorious music.  Diamond comes back from the North Wind and is always trying to remember the song that he heard sung by the brook.  He hears things on earth that remind him of it, but nothing is quite as beautiful.  You learn that Diamond was very sick while he was at the back of the North Wind, that it was a near death/heaven experience.  He longs to go back, and has no fear of any earthly thing... to the point that people on earth find him silly and think he has a screw loose.

I love that picture and the idea that once you have had a taste of something so beautiful, you won't be afraid anymore.

C.S. Lewis said, "If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world."

Missing things can steal joy from the now we have been given, and distract us from the longing we have for our resurrection.   

I want to find ways to live in the balance, to not live in fear of heartache but to remember, to live fully, and live in expectation of the coming One. 

""Surely I am coming quickly."  Amen.  Even so, come, Lord Jesus!"  Revelation 22:20

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