You know those days that feel like they were made as a gift specially tailored for you? I’m talking about that day that finally comes after a long stint of hardship, doubt, depression, mind-numbing mediocrity, sorrow, frustration. That day when it feels like you’re feeling the sun for the first time, and the breeze is brushing through your hair instead of stealing your school and work papers out of your hands. That was today for me.
People are constantly telling me that suffering is just a part of life. I will go through things I don’t fully understand or fully know how to deal and cope with. Some things, I just haven’t been able to cope with at all, and so I know that control is an illusion. Whether I remember that is a diffeent story. And as much as I’d like to say I know I’m not in control and can’t prevent troubling times in my life from happening, my tendency to try and white- nuckle steer myself away or out of certain situations suggests otherwise.
I have a love hate relationship with growth. I’d grown up in a Christian family, but just thought all along that God was just some creator dude who made things and was ruler of all, but didn’t really have anything to do with me personally. I thought Christianity was a decent concept, but it didn’t go much further than that. If you’re wondering, how I found Jesus was by praying what I call the dangerous prayer. I prayed this prayer, because I remember being frustrated when reading the Bible the very few times I did read it. It seemed God was always doing crazy things through all these people; classic example: Moses parting the Red Sea.
Like actually, what even.
So I was at my first ever youth conference, and I got this wild idea in my head,
“God, I don’t care what you have to do with me: whatever crap you need to bring up in my life for me to deal with, whatever thing you put me through – even if it breaks me in two – I want faith like Moses. I want you to do insane things through me. And You can do whatever You want to me, so long as afterwards I have an intimate relationship with you.”
I was in grade 10. And I definitely didn’t understand the full gravity of what I had just prayed to a God that I thought didn’t want anything personal to do with me.
Plenty of life has gone on since then. In that same year, I lost my first mentor, small group leader, and beloved friend Tina Jabbour to cancer that she had been fighting for seven years. That did indeed broke me into more than just two pieces. I’ve gone through the flux and flow of every day life and the hardships that come with it. Other issues have risen in opposition, and have now faded into the past to be incredibly vague memories. Still today there are trials that I’m working through.
And it seems quite strange, but I’ve always resented my struggling. You see, there’s somethings that we go through again and again and it seems that the only thing that changes is the specifics. Or there’s those other things that we should be able to physically work out ways out of and overcome. Or perhaps something seems so petty and we feel shame that we struggle with it at all.
Through all these years, I’ve resented struggle. When venting or trying to work things out with others, I beat myself up for it, arguing that it should have “never happened in the first place” or “how could I be so stupid to not see that coming”. I would try and hide my struggling from even my closest loved ones because guess what?
Growth is not a pretty process. Not even a bit. As a matter of fact, it’s quite ungraceful, and painful, and ugly. And the worst part is that other people totally get to witness it no matter how hard we try to keep it under wraps and say everything is A-Okay. Because it’s not.
But now I finally get it. My brother told me once that, “Everything will be okay in the end. If it’s not okay, then it’s not the end.” And he couldn’t have been more spot on. Growth is a continual process. And here’s where I go all artsy-fartsy with my analogies on you, so hold on to your hats.
Today has been such a beautiful day. For the past couple of months I’ve been struggling with identity, purpose, and “what the heck am I actually doing here when I could be elsewhere.” One of the reasons I wanted to attend school where I do, is because of the huge trees they seem almost nonexistent everywhere else in Southern Ontario. I’ve always really loved trees, and they’ve always really fascinated me but I have one that’s a favourite. It’s a massive oak tree in the centre of a courtyard that you have to be standing at least 75 feet back from to get it all in the frame. It’s pretty hard not to notice because of its impressive size and presence.
And then it hits me.
After studying this photo, maybe a few of you saw me sitting in the shade of this tree that is many times taller than myself (I’m just a couple inches off of 6′).
But I bet none of you noticed the small tree in the background of this photo.
It’s a small, young tree off to the right, and it stands just on the fringes of the shadow of the big oak. There’s nothing really extraordinary it seems about it because it has only been living a fraction of the time that the oak has been alive. It doesn’t stand very tall, and doesn’t require you to tilt your head all the way back when you stand under it to try to see the uppermost point. When I look at the oak, it makes me look so far up that it makes me wonder why I don’t look up more often, but for the young tree, the story is not the same. Its roots are still trying to grow to find a place to hold fast to so that it can grow taller. Its trying to obtain enough nutrients to help it grow. It has not endured as many storms as the oak, and is relatively new to the feeling of harsh weather beating down on it. When an exceptionally intense storm comes, the oak knows that it will endure, but the young tree fears for its thin branches and delicate leaves or to be ripped up by the roots. A tree, is just a tree. Life and weather don’t have anything personal against this young tree, they are equally relentless and cruel to all trees all around.
And then a realization.
I’m that young tree. I don’t point up and inspire others around me as much as I would love to. When I endure scary seasons in life, I shudder and shake and am terrified that it’ll try and rip me to pieces. My roots are deeper now, deeper than they’ve ever been, but I still have much growing to do. But just because a storm comes does not mean I have to start growing all over again, it’s just part of the process. Some people will ask me questions that I don’t have the answers to because I just simply haven’t lived enough of life yet. It’s okay I don’t know. It’s okay that growing is scary and sometimes very painful. I shouldn’t be ashamed that I struggle with growing pains. I’ll continue to endure through seasons that are beautiful and hopeful and others that are dark cold and scary. And with each and every passing day, I’ll grow more strong and more beautiful and more inspiring than the last. And one day,
I will be as big as that oak.