“I don’t want to look back on all my years,
recollecting mistakes that then will be clear,
about how I ran and chased a place my whole life to come aware
I was there.”
– This is a Refuge by The Rocket Summer
There are boxes strewn around my apartment, each one carefully filled with meager belongings. Books, mostly. I don’t have much in the way of furniture. Just a futon, a bed and a quaint little table with charming white chairs. Half of which I’ll probably give away or sell. A frugally bought television will also tag along, but the rest are pots, pans, cups and other every day things. A week from now I’ll be moving into my fourth “home” within a year. You would think with that kind of track record I would be used to packing up and moving forward, but I’m not.
The past few chapters in life haven’t been what I expected. Some were positive while others have been trying. This last one has been like walking through a desert, parched of soul and purpose. Many days hope seemed like a mirage glimmering on the horizon only to disappear when, crawling on hands and knees, I thought I came close enough to taste it.
I didn’t see the purpose in the desert. But then again, who does? It’s hard to see through the sandstorms. You get lost in the dunes and you struggle to see where to place your next step as your feet sink into the hungry sand. Your lips are dry and cracked and it’s almost impossible to perceive beyond your most imminent needs. You don’t notice the thickening of your skin beneath the burns, or the strengthening of your legs in the climb. And who can blame you when all you can focus on is staying alive?
Yet you keep pushing forward. Even when you feel like you can’t go any further and every ounce of you wants to give up, lie down and let the heat overtake you, you press on until you find an oasis. There you discover water to drink, a chance to bathe and flush the grit from your eyes. Suddenly you can see clearly and as you take a few days to rest in this refuge, you begin to realize you’re stronger than you were before.
Perhaps you’ve been there. Maybe you’ve made it through the desert. If you have, that’s wonderful, and something worth celebrating. But what about those who are sitting at the oasis, thankful for the refuge but afraid to step back out because they don’t know how long it will be before they feel relief again?
It’s tempting to linger, hoping another path – one with less resistance – will present itself. But sometimes we don’t have that option. Sometimes the hard path is the only path. It’s hard to step out when you know your trek will be met with opposition, impediments and conflict.
But there’s purpose in the pain.
As I prepare to move again, I realize I’m not walking into an easier path. In some ways I’m entering into the heart of tragedy, where war torn hearts still quarrel and death lingers in the shadows. But as I stand at the edge of my oasis, I begin to realize my time in the desert made me stronger.
Our hardships prepare us for what is to come. We don’t need to know why. We don’t need to see that far ahead. Most things will make sense in time. But through it all I’m learning that it’s best to live in the present; to take what reasons there are to smile and embrace them.
Too often I get caught in the deserts. I spend too much time in fear and I forget that even in hardship, there’s life to be lived and things to live for. As I plan to move yet again, I’m taking confidence in knowing I was prepared for this. I’m stronger than I was before and – more importantly – I know I won’t take these steps alone.
There’s life to be lived, even in the barren places. But we have to make the effort. Few things in this world are simply handed to us. It takes a fight to make things happen. Now that I’ve had time to breathe, I’m ready to take my rounds for the sake of something better.
If you’re like me, standing at an oasis or walking through a desert, know things do change. Keep pushing forward and remember these are the moments that will refine you and make you stronger.
This is just one chapter in your story. You still have others to tell.