Well, we made it. Another semester closed. Another year in the books. I've finished my first full year in the post-collegiate, full-time working world. I've caught myself saying "it seems like I was just doing this," a few times in the past week. Baccalaureate and commencements have been held. Resident halls have been emptied. Parking is once again available on university streets. It's all a bit surreal, but here we are.
That's the funny thing about time. It doesn't stop. I mean, I guess that's comforting if you are waiting for something. You're already moments closer to what you're waiting for that when you first arrived at this page. On the other hand, the end of this year, something I haven't been waiting for, quite dreading in fact, arrived right on schedule. I've known for months that this week would come. Students would leave. Some friends would graduate and move on. Some would leave to return in a few months. Others still are wrapping up the final ends and will be leaving in the next week. Within the next month or so, I'll have said "see ya later" to several of my people and wished them well on their way to Arizona, New York, Houston, 5 to St. Louis, 3 to Alaska, and Malaysia. Needless to say, this hasn't been my favorite time ever.
To those of you who know me well, this isn't news. It's been an impending heartache for months and now it has arrived. And boy, I sat in it this weekend.
Netflix accompanied my dreary graduation weekend as I wondered if I could continue to invest so deeply in people to see them leave once again. I remember at one point thinking that I'm sick of experiencing such wonderful things because it always hurts so much when they come to an end.
I went to church last night, weary from a draining weekend. It was good to be out and about and the day was nice. My best friend, Katy, invited me to go to worship at a nearby college later that night and even though it had been a long weekend, I've become jealous for any time I can spend with her before she and her husband move. So to Vespers we went. Since it was the last service of the year, the leadership of the worship service was being recognized and the leadership for next year was brought up. One of their campus ministers asked the people in attendance to think about who God had been for them in the past year.
"Has He been your healer? Has He been your deliverer? Has He been your provider? Your comforter? Your peaceful presence? How has He changed you in the last year? Where have you seen His work in your life?" I thought back and was surprised when I realized that I would've used several of those very words to describe God's work in my life in the past year. Funny, though, my first reaction was not giving thanks to God for what He'd done. I knew that it should've been, but I was still crabby about the fact that it was ending. "Great, God...more good things that are in the past."
She went on. As she laid hands on the teams that would serve for next year, she said this:
"Lord, would You open our hearts to what you are continuing to do in us? You are never done! You are. Never. Done. Give us joy and excitement. Help us to pay attention to what You will continue to do."
Thank you, Jesus, for that word. Turns out, this was a repeat lesson and I'm a slow learner. When I was in Israel, we got the opportunity to visit Old Jericho. I walked on the very ground the Israelites did when the walls fell down. I was speechless. I remember saying to God, "wow, Lord, You were SO big for Your people." I went on and on about the places we'd already been. "Wow, God. You healed people with muddy water. You calmed storms. You felled walls. You did huge things."
As I walked through the rock pile of Old Jericho that is now an archaeological hay day, I was hit with a holy 2x4. "I AM big for my people, Shelly. I AM doing huge things. I am tearing down walls. I am calming storms. I am healing. It is My Name. I AM. I AM the same yesterday, today, and forever."
Last night, I was once again reminded of this. He isn't done. He isn't. This isn't the end. The good isn't only behind us, but still to come.
So began a time of sincerely giving thanks for what good has already been.
1 Give thanks to the LORD, call on his name;
make known among the nations what he has done.
2 Sing to him, sing praise to him;
tell of all his wonderful acts.
3 Glory in his holy name;
let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice.
4 Look to the LORD and his strength;
seek his face always. 5 Remember the wonders he has done,
his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced,
6 O descendants of Abraham his servant,
O sons of Jacob, his chosen ones. Psalm 105
I definitely had a list to give thanks about. I remember doing research about fear last year. Neurologically, when brain scans have been done on fear (don't ask me to get too technical...I am no brain surgeon), they found something to be true. The activity in the area of the brain that produces fear cannot function fully if the area of the brain that produces gratitude is working. Gratitude and fear cannot physically coexist well in our brains. I was feeling fearful about the future. Gratitude. It shows God's faithfulness in the past. It reassures hope in the future. I'm grateful for that promise. Don't wait to be grateful. It brings joy. It brings faith in the future. It reminds us that we haven't missed our chance, but are still living in the meantime of the best of things.
Jesus, You've been SO good. I thank you that Your goodness hasn't ended like this school year. The salvation we have in Christ is continuing to unfold. Goodness abounds. I am grateful.
More on this week later...I have more thoughts.