I picked up my friend at the Philadelphia airport and pointed the car toward Ocean City, NJ. It was a thick August day, sure to swamp the beach with vacationers, but we went anyway.
We were weary, both in the midst of difficult seasons. We needed to decompress, and maybe we needed to see the ocean stretched before us, vast and full of mystery. What better reminder that there is more than we can see, that the world’s story is so much bigger than our brief strings of time?
We planted our chairs in wet sand by the water’s edge, putting the crowd at our backs. For the next five hours we watched the waves and shared our hearts.
The words weren’t new. Our struggles hadn’t changed since our last visit, and we were already well-acquainted with one another’s heartaches. But as we talked, a fresh realization seeped into our minds:
As hard as the last few years had been, we were afraid to let them go.
They were Single Chapters in our lives, and they’d changed us drastically. Our identities only made sense in the context of those hard years. Who were we if we were no longer persevering through X, Y, or Z?
We’d been clinging to our Single Chapters, and we needed courage to turn the page.
Someone recently asked me, “What were the best years of your life so far?” This is a question about Single Chapters – isolated phases of life, both good and hard. Sometimes others use them to define us. Sometimes we use them to define ourselves.
That afternoon at the beach, I asked myself if I was afraid to be happy. Did I keep dredging up the past and re-hashing old heartaches to punish myself? Was I harboring resentment or bitterness? Was my chronic introspection some weird form of asceticism?
My honest answer was no. I wasn’t angry, and I didn’t resent the way life had unfurled. I’d weathered anxiety, panic attacks, depression, spiritual drought, and a rough adoption during this particular Single Chapter, but I wouldn’t undo any of it.
I’d learned that fire refines, and brokenness in the hands of the living God is the beginning of eternal beauty.
But those lessons, and others, were hard-learned. Most of them were still in process. If I dared move forward – if I released the pain that had taught me those truths – would I forget what I’d learned?
The answer, since I’m a daughter of Eve, is yes. I wouldn’t forget all, but I would forget some. I need look no further for proof than the Old Testament, or the last time I yelled at the kids.
We fall, we learn, we get back up, and we forget. The cycle of humanity.
But we love a God who finishes what He starts. And because He knows us, He tells us in a thousand ways that His mercies are new every morning. His love is steadfast, His provision abundant, and His faithfulness proven.
Trusting in that, even with a fragile faith, gave me courage to turn the page. Two years later I’m in a new chapter, focused on new challenges. And guess what? The lessons are the same. They all seem to boil down to this:
More of Him. Less of me.
So let the pages turn, friends. The Author and Perfecter of our faith won’t let our Single Chapters go to waste.
There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind.