“And I think to myself, how long has God been speaking this joy over my life, and I have been too filled up with anxiety to hear it?”
I tell this to her on the phone pacing outside the building where I spend most of my time as a new graduate student. I try to let my feet carry me where they will on the winding paths of campus, past library and other classroom buildings and people on skateboards and scooters, past trendy backpacks and BPA free water bottles.
I am relaying a conversation I had with Preston about callings, about anxiety about the future, about what is happening in our lives and what it will mean and how it will happen, and it’s in the midst of telling her about the conversation (not even the conversation itself) that I realize it:
God has been speaking joy over my life.
Anxiety is an unruly substance – it fills up the spaces wherever you let it in. It creeps into the corner of yourself and becomes the drumbeat and gives the marching orders.
And I fill myself up with anxiety so much that I cannot hear God speaking. And it is in the very act of resisting anxiety that we will find, that we can hope to find, the ears to hear.
Be astonished! Be astounded! For a work is being done in your days that you would not believe if you were told.
When was the last time I was astonished at the Lord? When was the last time I was astounded? When was it that I stopped and marveled and felt my knees go weak from seeing the wonder and the blessedness?
When I resist anxiety, even for a moment, I can catch a glimmer of the song God is singing over my life: joy.
In resisting the anxiety there is promise, there is purpose, and no, it’s not a new life plan with a bigger God stamp on it. It’s purpose that is drawing nearer to the Father and purpose that is becoming more like Jesus and it is purpose that will lead you to a new city in a new state in a new marriage so that you might know God better and love him more. The places where we live out our vocation have a tendency to substitute their purposes for the ultimate purpose: we think that we’re here to become a certain kind of scholar or a certain kind of teacher or a certain kind of electrical engineer, and that’s the real reason God said go. But in that we forget: we forget that Jesus first and always and finally calls us to be a certain kind of human being, one who is made glorious by the Spirit dwelling and moving inside them, one who bears God’s image, resplendent, made new, gracious and graceful and alive.
Before Preston and I got married, I memorized Romans 8. I don’t know why, except for the ways that, daily, I have had to remind myself of it. Remind myself that there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Remind myself that you are in the Spirit. Remind myself that those whom he called, he also justified, and those whom he justified, he also glorified.
And here again, I remember: nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love that is in Christ Jesus.
In the midst of what is unknown, we are not apart from the love of God. In the midst of what can make us anxious, we are not apart from the love of Christ Jesus. In the midst of hoping and praying and waiting and raging, in the emptiness and the fullness, the silence and the singing, we are not apart from such love.
Be astonished! Be astounded! For nothing will be able to separate us from the love that is in Christ Jesus. And thus, rejoice.