Beauty For Ashes

Remember how I told you a couple of weeks ago about how bored I’ve been these past few months sitting around in Jamaica?  How since getting back here in January, I’ve felt as if my life has been on pause and I’ve been waiting, waiting, waiting for it to begin again?

Some people have said that I should enjoy this time of rest, particularly since they would love to have a time such as this.  To be clear, the first few weeks were a time of rest for me.  The last several months have been a time of inactivity.  There’s a big difference.  And now I want to explain why I despise boredom and extended periods of inactivity.

Some people are OK with being bored or inactive, and I used to be one of those people – I used to endure boredom and inactivity without thinking on it too much – but I’m not that person anymore.  I now find myself unable to endure boredom or to willingly use up my time on filler activities, i.e., doing something just for the sake of something to do.  I think this is because nowadays I almost always feel an urgency to get on with life and accomplish whatever purpose God has laid out for me – not to strive to get a to-do list done, but to work at accomplishing a purpose.  This urgency is born out of moments where I feel as if I’ve wasted a good half of my life.  Considering that I’m forty-one years old, that’s a big chunk of years.

I remember when I was eighteen and leaving high school.  My whole life was ahead of me and I was confident that I would be really good at making it a happy and successful one.  I had good reason to believe this.  After all, I had been killing at life up to that point.  Around that time, I remember that after much trying in vain to get from God what I was supposed to do with my life (there was some amount of wishing that He still spoke through burning bushes), I figuratively threw up my hands in frustration and decided for myself.  Then I spent the next twenty years living from the top of my head, ignoring my deep, secret yearnings, and pursuing the life I had decided I wanted.  As you know by now, that didn’t work out so well for me.

When I look back now at those twenty years, they’re like ashes to me; they’ve crumbled into a meaningless pile of nothing.  All that I had put value on turned out to mean nothing; all that I accomplished turned out to mean nothing.  At those times when I look back, it seems as if there was no purpose in it.  At those times when I look back, I feel as if I’m now back at square one, back when I was eighteen years old and trying to figure out my life.  At those times I ask myself, “What have I really accomplished?”  And at those times, it seems like the answer is, “Nothing at all.”  At those times I feel like it was all a big waste of precious, limited, always-running-out time.

Not only does it feel like I spent all those years chasing meaningless things which have crumbled to dust, I also feel like it took me way too long to learn the life lessons I needed to learn.  What took me ten or fifteen years to learn I now think should have taken me months, maybe a year or two at most.  Then I would have arrived at this place in my life where I needed to be long ago.  So much time wasted.

So you see where my sense of urgency and my intolerance for boredom and inactivity come from.  I have a very limited number of decades of life, a good portion of which have already gone, and I’ve wasted much of that time on meaningless, ridiculous activities instead of working in the purpose for which I was created and accomplishing the things that God laid out for me.

But then I remember Romans 8:28:

We know that in all things God works for good with those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.

In part, I think this means that God can take those ashy years of mine and work something good from them.  For example, I think so far He’s been using the lessons from my wasted years as a testimony for anyone who will slow down long enough to listen to me, like maybe you guys.

I think it also means that as long as I’m willing to submit to His purpose, something good is bound to happen.  For example, now that I’ve stopped fighting Him to do what I think I should be doing, He takes me on the most wonderful adventures, which also turn into lessons and testimonies.

I’m not going to pretend: sometimes the nature of my current life is very uncomfortable for me.  I still have no idea where my life is going or what specifically God wants me to do.  The next few steps, much less His overall plan, are a huge mystery that I can’t see clearly, no matter how hard I try.  That makes me very uncomfortable sometimes, no matter how lighthearted I normally am, because it means I have to do a lot of waiting for Him and going by faith.  Without a clearly defined purpose and direction, I sometimes feel as if I’m drifting through life, which I don’t like because of that sense of urgency and wasted time that looms over me.

BUT!

I know that even this quiet time has had purpose in it, although I still don’t see it yet.  I also know that I cannot even begin to fathom the things that are to come.  So, although the fact of my wasted decades cannot be changed, it’s also a fact that they can be worked to God’s higher purpose.  And because I know that He will do exactly that, I wait in patient anticipation to see the beautiful thing into which He’s going to turn my ashes.

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