Still Waters

What’s changing is that this wish resembles more of an ache now. It wraps its tendrils around things I never wished it to.

clocktower reflected in puddle

Deep among the valleys of my mid-twenties as I press ever on toward the eventual, inevitable horizon ahead, I find myself treading fertile ground. There are years that wither, years that yield the smallest harvest, years perhaps where one spends every waking hour simply plucking those indomitable weeds. Until one day, the rains come. Life, they say, has a way of springing back to old vigor with the same inevitability as the road before us reaching that far-off town and the one beyond.

Frankly, the planting that must be done in such cases is at times similarly all-consuming. If I have not written since February, it is because the Gardener has planted so many seeds around me, and given me like Adam the grace-kissed toil: to till and to keep. I have cried, laughed, smiled, felt more than ever I could have hoped for in the first half of this year. I am soaked through with the joy of it all. I have thought long and hard about the life I’ve built around me, of what I must do to clean it up, to make it the kind of gift to God and to others I would like it to be. Dependability, discipline, devotion—these are all things I long to cultivate within myself, if in part because I find myself so often lacking in them. We are our harshest critics. But perhaps that’s because we know the kind of medicine we need, even if we don’t know how it works.

I think a lot about silence. More so since moving to a mid-sized city from my small town home of fellow introverts. I live alone and yet the world is full of noise. Cars pass by spreading thick, pulsating beats of stereo percussion and the endless tide of tires brushing asphalt. Alone in my apartment, the fridge begins a monotone symphony, rousing itself to its work before, abruptly as it started, it clicks back to sleep. I put on a podcast. I put on another podcast. It’s 4:30 again.

person holding pink and white petaled flowers

Many others have had these thoughts, and I don’t pretend to flaunt my own originality. “The world is loud, the internet distracts us, we’re too busy, we spend too much time on our phones, and we need to get out into nature, slow down, and just… be.” Well, yes. No doubt I do, but what’s changing is that this wish resembles more of an ache now. It wraps its tendrils around things I never wished it to. If I try to stay in touch with all 500 of my Facebook friends, I will end up feeling like friends with none of them. I’ve made true comrades, colleagues, co-conspirators, and confidants through the internet. I wouldn’t trade that for the mere idea of tranquility. But earth’s mundane blessings I must achieve through tidying up and making doctor’s appointments and savvy financial planning: areas that aren’t so academic and where all the tests are practical, fields of study where I feel I barely achieve a passing grade. To be honest, living my life takes a great deal out of me. Everyone’s experience of this is different, true, and all things come in seasons. But more and more I find I must prune that which grows relentlessly to have a chance of seeing through the greenery and be there for the people around me. Fertile ground bears much fruit, but only if you care for what you sow.

It takes humility to admit that I ought not try to be all things to all people. No one can. I think the people who care for me will feel my affections more clearly reciprocated were I to write to or call them, individually. Few people I have ever met would be excluded from the garden, should ever they pass through, but there is only so much ink in the bottle and oil in the lantern. (Note: if you are reading this and think I am planning to stop talking to you or being your friend, you are almost certainly safe from this.)

So when the rain calms itself into lakes of still waters on my street, when the cars have gone to bed and their drivers parked themselves for the evening, my mind turns ever to that quote of Kierkegaard: “purity of heart is to will one thing.” That I who am so easily distracted might hope for this is a testament to God’s grace, perhaps. I want to love wholeheartedly, to serve with joy, to have the energy and mental bandwidth to delight in creation deeply. There is comfort for me in the radical communion of the life of the Trinity. No matter what passes, I am never truly apart from those who also live in God. We live in the hope that one day, we shall all see Him as He is, face to face.

a rainbow over a field