I drove in six states on Sunday, arriving home after 12.5 hours en route, including stops at an airport, two rest areas, two gas stations, and Steak & Shake. (That last was to have been Starbucks and a cup of tea, which I confidently expected at the selected exit, but traffic being heavy, and Steak & Shake being handy, I thought a chocolate milkshake would do the trick. It did.)
Apprehensive as I always am about traveling alone, I’m learning to love the between-ness of it. While making noticeable progress toward a certain destination — a thing incredibly comforting in the midst of these topsy-turvy twenties — I’m not required to be anywhere particularly.
I mentioned the envelope of predictions in my last post. Before we opened it, my friend enthused about its connection to the past: “Our young hands touched this five years ago!” It made me think of Wordsworth’s “Tintern Abbey:” “Five years have past; five summers, with the length / of five long winters!”
In some ways, these past five years have felt like a long stretch of road without a certain destination. The four years of college that preceded them were all focused toward that definite end point, and all the goals I’ve set and met since have been fillers of sorts. My friends predicted for me a baby with yellow curls, a red couch, a home in Lynchburg, Virginia, among other things, and my own predictions for myself were similar, if less specific. I think I expected to be older than I am, more settled, feeling wiser.
Reading it left me wistful, and yet there was a saving grace at the end: “If, in five years, I am more patient, more flexible, more trusting in He of the unthwarted will than I am now, I shall be very well pleased.” The grace is that I didn’t specify amounts, I simply hoped for “more.” “More” I have been given, not in the ways I expected, but more all the same.
Jackie Knapp writes about unfulfilled expectations, a theme for twenty-somethings. She says “We need to learn to grieve our shattered dreams, to understand and absorb sadness, to sit with unanswered questions and learn about trusting God in this space without sugar-coating the truth. . . . But,” she says, “we also need to grow new expectations, ones that wait for God to show up in ways we couldn’t imagine, to expect seasons of joy and grace in the midst of difficulties. We need courage to find new dreams when our old ones aren’t happening.”
If I were to write predictions for my next five years, they would be the vaguest of sketches. I’ve learned that life doesn’t follow formulas, plans come unplanned. Strangely enough, however, I feel I have my sights on a more certain destination than I did five years ago. I can’t see it, or enter the address into the GPS and get a prediction of the time it will take to get there, but I know it exists, and I know I’m on my way: glory. The progress is noticeable, if small.
Hebrews records how Abraham “went out, not knowing where he was going,” but living “by faith . . . in the land of the promise. . . . looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.” Like him, I seek a homeland, a better country: “[God] has prepared for [me] a city.”
Take heart with me, you who watch and wait. I don’t know how many states and stops it may take before we arrive, how many traffic jams and reroutings, how many milkshakes where we look for tea, how many fuel prices that seem unreasonably high, how many unrealized red couches and golden-crowned toddlers and shifting dreams. But He who calls is faithful; we won’t be wanting.
©2014 by Stacy Nott