I didn’t publish often in 2019, but I did spend much of the year writing. Slowly but surely, I began by typing one word after another, one sentence after the last. To what end, I wasn’t sure. But that was kind of the point. To provide space to breathe through my fingertips. To let the words out that piled up, weighty and tall, on my chest. Thousands of them offloaded onto a Google Doc or a clean sheet of notebook paper in exchange for freedom, peace, and clarity.
What follows it something I wrote last spring.
Discontent. That’s the word I feel a little too often in this season. Rushed is the word that follows closely behind it. I feel a little like I’m hurtling forward, and in the blurry colors speeding past me, I wonder what it’s all for. What am I doing here? I’ve been chewing on some words to attach to the restlessness fluttering in my chest. Trying to chase down a feeling that keeps lurking in the corners of my mind.
It’s April 27th, 2019. I’m in Houston for the Hillsong UNITED show – one of the first on their People Tour. About halfway through the set, the band piles onto the smaller stage about 15 feet from where I’m standing. They tell a story, set up the song, and begin to play. And the notes that fill the air echo somewhere in the chambers of my memory.
Suddenly, I’m back in a musty smelling room in Walker County, Georgia with 300 teenagers. There, standing in the middle of the crowded room during an evening summer camp service, is my sixteen-year-old self. I slip into the row beside her in the old chapel on LookOut Mountain, and I watch her face in the glow of the stage lights, changing with every expression, singing her heart out. I remember this. The words to “Inside Out” run across the screen in front of her and move her soul in a new and fresh way. I don’t interrupt, but I do wonder what she would think about my experience tonight, my experience in the life I’m living now.
I think about her a lot recently – my younger self. I go back to her often in my mind and tell her all the things I’m doing now, and I say, “Can you believe it? This is where you go! Doesn’t that sound like a wild journey?” She doesn’t say much in response. She looks at me with incredulity and confused eyes, a little hesitant and not quite excited. “But that doesn’t make any sense. Tell me one more time how I get to where you are now.”
“Only Jesus,” I say. “That’s how.”
Back in Houston, I have an All Access pass draped around my neck. An hour earlier, I shook the hand attached to the brain that wrote that song. That song that moved me then.
I sit on the second row, hear it afresh and discover that it moves me still.
It’s bizarre, the life I’m living. That thought runs frequently through my mind. It’s amazing and wonderful and special and fun and such a privilege. So why does the word discontent follow me around?
I think I have been culturally conditioned to expect something new. Something else. Something next. I expect marriage, a family, a promotion, a house, a move, a connection. All my life, I’ve moved from adventure to adventure, new chapter to new chapter. While this isn’t the final act in the play, it doesn’t have an end in sight. No due date or leading line foreshadowing what’s to come. I’m just here. Day after day, doing the job I was given to do, interacting with the same relationships, driving the same roads, unlocking the same doors.
And as I write this, I realize what a blessing that is. What a kindness I am missing in my discontentment.
The cravings in my brain tell my parched throat that it is looking for a specific and flavorful drink while I walk past countless glasses of cool, clear water – the only thing that will truly satisfy.
Adventures are ahead. They will come in time, and they will be as thrilling as all the ones before. But there is a thrill here, too. In sitting still. In routine and the simple act of putting one brick on top of another of my life. Bricks and bricks and bricks, placed at an even pace with diligence and care, don’t look like much one at a time; however, when I step back, something special stands before me.
And while I work, there is a Master Architect behind me designing something beyond my wildest imagination. Right now, it looks like just a stack of bricks, but that’s only a foundational piece of a larger cathedral He is building. A cathedral meant to show His glory to every eye that sees it. Every eye, including mine.
I wonder if my 36-year-old self will come someday to visit me in this season. I wonder if the notes of a song that moves me now will prompt her to remember me as I am in this season, at this age. I imagine she will stand silently to the side, watching me, smiling with patience and kindness and understanding. “If you only knew,” she will say quietly. “If you only knew how it looks from here. There’s a masterpiece in the making.
“This is what you are doing here. You’re stirring mortar and stacking bricks in the only way it can be done. One at a time.”