Morning sun flickered through the stately pines as birds chirped to signal the beginning of a new day. I looked out the window and smiled. This wasn’t just a new day. It was a whole new chapter in life that was just starting. It was my first morning in the forested hills of Cali and I could not wait to see all that was about to enfold before me. I hurried out to the trails, eager to talk to the One I loved before the day began.
This morning I had a lot to talk to Him about— particularly the fact that this day began the fulfillment of a dream I had had ever since I first began to love Him. The dream was far from ordinary and even a little wild to put into writing. But despite my naivety it had been the longing of my little heart for many a year.
Ever since I was 11 or 12 I was fascinated by the stories of men and women who had been stripped of absolutely everything and forced to rely upon God alone. Sometimes that took the form of missionary service in some foreign land where rice and a mud hut were almost all a person had. Other times it was the testimonies of those who had been sent to jail for their faith and stripped of family and friends and merely given four cold, concrete walls.
Something inside of me thrilled when I heard those stories and simultaneously ached to have the same experience. There was a part of me that would forfeit all the normal pleasures of life if I could just be put in a position where I had nothing but Jesus and I had to lean my full weight on Him alone.
For years the longing grew in my heart to taste what those heroes had experienced of God and as I saw no incredible opportunities on the horizon my impatience started to grow as well. Slowly I began to recognize the importance of treasuring each little opportunity to love Him and trust that somewhere down the road He would provide whatever experiences I needed to learn that full dependance.
It was as the sun rose and I walked trails, hopping over tree roots and talking non-stop to Him that I realized that this might be the very experience I had prayed for. Here I was, hundreds of miles away from my family, living in an unknown place, surrounded by unknown people, starting my first job and honestly having no idea what I was doing. The only thing I did know was He was with me and He would be enough.
It dawned slow. That was why my heart couldn’t help singing a thousand praises. Sure I wasn’t in a jail cell or the middle of the bush in Africa but I knew that for this shy soul who had never lived and worked away from home, this was an opportunity to have nothing but Jesus— to learn to lean hard. And that was the answer to a prayer I had prayed for many a year.
A couple weeks passed and I began to realize that somehow this dream was not panning out exactly how I had expected. I thought that just having Jesus would be the sweetest journey of walking and talking with Him through every moment of the day and having little to distract me since I was not surrounded by everything I was used to. Instead I was fighting the creeping aloneness that kept nagging at my heart.
Morning walks by the creek that I had expected to be precious time to revel in His presence seemed to turn into desperate prayers of need and loneliness. I’d go back to my room only to find it’s silence awaiting me instead of the banter and laughter of family. All those little situations that that I had anticipated spending simply enjoying Jesus turned into moments of silence and confusion at the ache inside.
I’ve always believed that Jesus is all a Christian needs and that if we have Him we are the happiest people on earth. Somehow though, I had translated that into thinking that as long as I had Him I would never be haunted by loneliness or find myself aching for companionship. More than that I considered any such feeling in my own heart to be a lack of connection with Him.
Water rippled and flowed past me in the creek and I sat and watched and prayed— prayed prayers I never would have dreamed of praying a few weeks before. I admitted it… that this was nothing like I had expected and that I didn’t think I could handle not having human support and companionship and that I felt like I needed more than just Jesus.
Even as I said the words I felt the ache of failure— the ache that comes from being given a privilege and feeling incapable of living up to it. Yeah, I was the girl who had longed for years to be given a chance to just have Jesus and here I was telling Him that I couldn’t do it and that I needed something more.
Questions raced through my head… Why was this so hard? Why did I feel alone when I had Him? How come I hadn’t experienced the sweet moments of just reveling in His love when I had nothing else? Why had I found myself broken instead?
I couldn’t help admitting that I wasn’t sure what I wanted anymore. Something deep down still wanted just Jesus but much more tangible was the longing to have human companionship as well as Him. The chorus to one of my favorite songs became the prayer my heart echoed during those weeks… “Let me see redemption win, let me know the struggle ends, that You can mend a heart that’s frail and torn.”
Months have passed now and I look back and I can’t help being amazed at His tenderness. He provided the companionship I asked for and it wasn’t long before I was saying a hundred thanks for His provision.
Sometimes though, I couldn’t help remembering my dream to just have Jesus and cringing at the way I had handled the opportunity. Sure, I knew that I would have somehow been willing to continue on with just Him if He had not supplied me with the friendship of others, but I also knew too well that those few weeks had been restless and painful instead of the sweet joy I had anticipated. He had given me my dream and I had buckled under the intensity instead of embracing it.
Deep down I knew I wasn’t content with an ending like that. And neither was He.
Just when I thought I was comfortable and content in all He had given His hand moved in ways I hadn’t expected and I again found myself grappling with the silence and isolation that threatened to engulf. I began to question again but hardly had I gotten the words out of my mouth when it struck me. He had again given me the opportunity to have purely Himself. In His mercy He’d given me a second shot at my dream.
This time I am not rushing into the opportunity thinking that this will be a walk in the park. I recognize that I will be driven to my knees, that I will break, that I will question my ability to hold on— and that it is through those very things that I will learn a depth of dependance on Him.
You see, I’d always had this idea that it was pure joy for a Christian to rely wholly on His God. And it is. But pure joy is often made up of a thousand tears. The deepest fulfillment is often found through the deepest surrender. The times of greatest growth are most often the result of the times of greatest pain.
That’s what I’d forgotten. I’d thought this whole thing would be one beautiful fairy tale. I’d read the stories of the heroes who were imprisoned for their faith and had been struck by the brightness of their love for Jesus but I had missed the truth that it was only through hardship that their love was revealed. I’d been enamored by the depth of friendship they had gained with Jesus through torture but I had somehow passed over the fact that it was that very torture that had birthed the depth of their love.
I had walked trails this summer and wondered what on earth was wrong with me that I was finding it so hard to be content with just Jesus and questioned whether I loved Him at all. Now I looked back and realized that the very fact that it was painful was proof that the opportunity for growth was real.
And so this time when He came and gently asked me to again lean on just His arm, I said yes. Not a naive yes of sheer excitement but a yes that knows that this will not be easy and there will be moments where everything inside of me will scream for more. I say yes this time and don’t hide from the ache that yes brings because I know that it is that very ache that makes this yes beautiful.
Yeah, there may be mornings where I don’t feel like getting out of bed to love people all day long while not having family and friends surrounding me— but it is in that moment I am given the opportunity to acknowledge the darkness and choose to stand up and fight despite it. Sure there will be days when walking trails and watching the sunset alone is the last thing I feel like doing— but it will be then that I can open the depths of my heart to Jesus and let Him in even deeper than I could have in moments of plenty.
I’m not kidding myself this time. I know that letting Him fulfill this dream in me will be hard. I know there will be times I’m not sure I want it after all. I know this road is a broken one.
But I also know this— I want it anyway.
Jesus, I’m saying yes again. Yes to embracing the uncomfortable. Yes to welcoming aloneness. Yes to whatever pain this journey brings.
Because You are enough and experiencing all of You is still my dream.
No matter what it costs.