In L.M. Montgomery’s Emily of New Moon, Emily’s gruff teacher shuffles through her poetry with a critical eye and sarcastic asides. “Ode to Winter – the seasons are a sort of disease all young poets must have, it seems,” he remarks.
If delight in the seasons is a disease, I’m not sure I want to recover. The music of spring, summer, autumn, and winter fascinates me. When I was younger and obsessed with summer, I felt the year was a great wheel that reached its joyous climax in midsummer before turning back down to autumn.
I’m only two and a half years out of school, and I still analyze each year separately. Each summer since college has brought its own blessings, challenges, and questions of yearning.
How Yo You Fully Live? Yearning for Purpose
The first summer after college, I had just gotten my first job. Every day, I thanked God that I found work that used my writing skills – but sitting alone in a cubicle in a dead-silent office all day was hard. I was lonely and bored.
Is this what real life is like? I asked myself. Did all my teachers in school inspire me to change the world and follow my heart just so I could tap away at a computer for the rest of my life?
One weekend, I went with some friends to a lake house in the mountains. We slathered on cool-smelling sunscreen and played catch in the blue shallows under the hot July sun. After a while, I sat on the warm wooden dock to listen to my friends talk and watch the others laugh and splash in the game.
How do you fully live in this world? I kept pondering. Is this how you do it – work a boring job all week so you can have fun on the weekends?
For all the life principles Sunday School and my parents taught me, I couldn’t figure it out. How does God want us to balance pleasure and pain? Should we (American Christians, in my case) try to make money to donate to good causes and enjoy, or become foreign missionaries and live on beans? Should we pursue work that’s interesting, noble, or lucrative?
I couldn’t answer these questions under the hot July sun, or through that long year. In retrospect, I think God was teaching me to seek Him, not just a lifestyle or a calling that was labeled and packaged with a bow. The words of Ravi Zacharias helped with my questions about pleasure and pain:
Anything that refreshes you without distracting or diminishing or destroying your final goal is a legitimate pleasure.
“How do we fully live?” is a question to ask every day, not just once. However, if my final goal is to glorify God, I should enjoy pleasure that refreshes me on the way and persevere through pain. But my gaze needs to stay firmly on Him.
How Can I Participate in Community? Yearning for Fellowship
My second summer out of college was possibly the happiest of my life (though that summer after kindergarten with the slip n’ slide was pretty great). I had just changed jobs and now had kind, thoughtful coworkers who I could actually see and talk to, interesting work, and a gorgeous New England town of cobblestone streets and a blue harbor to explore.
In this new place and new commute, I ached to invest in friendships and meaningful work. How do you participate in community? I wondered, especially toward the end of last summer. Outside of the microcosmic bubble-worlds of high school and college, how do you build relationships and find good causes to join in? After some research and seeking, I found a Christ-centered, vibrant church and joined a small group and a ministry.
Those two weekly church events were torches through that fall and dark, cold winter. Some nights, I arrived breathless and feeling as though burning frost was eating away my skin. Some nights, swan’s-feather snow and icy highways kept me at home. But the nights I could go were feasts of fellowship: warm, encouraging, funny, and fascinating.
My small group read through the Book of Acts and watched the drama of the fledgling Church unfold, marveling at Peter’s new wisdom in the Spirit, of Paul’s perseverance for the church. The ministry group centered on carrying the light of grace and hope into some of the darkest places I know of.
How do you participate in community? is a question is one to ask in every season of life, not just once, but I began to discover that loving friendships and worthwhile work (especially ministry) go together. Striving side by side is the best way to find the intimacy of understanding and trust – easier and more lasting than building relationships on conversation alone.
This summer is slipping past like a dream, and it’s different from the last two: I don’t know that there’s a central question yet, other than how can I find joy in a season of waiting?
Even as I worry about every unknown, I remember how lovingly God has shepherded me through post-graduate life. I need to learn again the simple trust of abiding. And, in the meantime, attend to my summer adventure bucket list before these golden days are gone.