Have you taken one of those tests where you are shown an object and asked to state the first thing the image makes you think of or the first word that comes into your mind? You are shown a yellow circle, and you may respond with “egg yoke” or “sun”. I suppose most of life can be like this. We experience something in this physical world, and if we’re alert, we see connections to the invisible world, the spiritual world. This reminds me of my most recent favorite passage, II Corinthians 4:16-18 (NIV).
Verse 17 states, “Therefore, we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.” I often repeat this verse in my mind. “Wasting away.” Do you see it all around you and in you? Seems discouraging. But then, “renewed day by day”. “We are being renewed day by day.” The contrast of the inner reality to the outward experience is the reason to “not lose heart”, to not give up. Does this verse encourage you, infuse you with courage?
In my last post, I gave you twelve observations (insights, lessons, or questions) stemming from our resent relocation from Prescott Valley, Arizona to Fort Wayne, Indiana. The entire process and all the details kept reminding me of ideas I had been taught — from Scripture, from my parents, and from friends. Some of them are worth commenting on. So much has happened in the last few weeks, that there are so many other observations I’d like to explore. But what are a few good thoughts for us to digest today?
The first of my twelve thoughts startled me, so it may have you as well. But it was a thought that kept coming back to me:
“Relocating from one area to another reminds me of death. Of separation. Of the transitory nature of life.”
When we stay in one location, we become accustomed to the familiar and lose sight of the transitory nature of life in its every aspect. (I’m supposing common generalities upon my own experience.) We know our yesterdays are gone, but we can still go back to those places: our church, the park, our usual stores…. We drive into our neighborhood and see the same houses, the same driveways, and wave to the same neighbors.
We turn the corner and there is the same entrance to our home. We push the garage door opener and enter the same spot, noting just where to place the car so the door closes behind and we are not too far to the left or right. And so on. In taking our life patterns for granted (a God-given grace), we can easily turn this grace into a delusion that our days, our lives, are longer than they really are.
Moving to a new place changes all the places and environments, even if we establish similar routines. We learn new places, new roads to get us there. Starkly, I face that the familiar is now in the past, a past that will only become more distant from my new present.
After six weeks in the Midwest, my perspectives and attitudes are adjusting and improving. I am accepting that the familiar of the last decade is over. I’m exploring and accepting new opportunities, letting some of them become part of the pattern of the new familiar, the new daily or weekly rituals.
Paul and I have returned to the Midwest over a decade older than when Paul’s career took us to Arizona. Now, in our 60’s, we are in the early stage of old age. How odd it feels, but every stage has felt odd, because at every place on the continuum of life, it has always has been new.
I remember the fear I felt when I became a mother. I had never been one before! I was afraid I’d be a terrible mother. Then it occurred to me that Amanda had never been a baby before, so we’d learn together. And we did.
Paul and I are learning to be productive older people. It is very humbling. Those we meet (except family members) in Indiana have never known us, so we have no context with each other. What they see is the older version of us. The vigor and attractiveness of youth and middle age are but shadows.
I wonder where you are on the continuum of life. Let me encourage you to not take your age/stage for granted, not to presume strength and opportunities, but to “number your days”, to invest in and enjoy those who are in your circle now. May what you see and sense remind you of what you cannot see but know on the invisible, spiritual plane of reality.
Paul and I have lost the rugged mountains that surrounded us, the broad, breezy, sunny valley we called home, the dry, mild climate of the central highlands of Arizona, the readily available fellowship we had cultivated with neighbors and friends there. Now we cultivate new relationships in a different environment. We have traded the textured mountains for vast networks of green: manicured yards in neighborhoods, and beyond these, the here or there flat or rolling land with patches of emerald forests surrounding field after field of farmed land with farm houses and buildings.
While we live on the north side of Fort Wayne, we are near the country. We drink in the green, green, green. Yes, the climate is usually humid during much of the year, so we better enjoy the lush consequence of rain and humidity.
I am aware that some folks are so focused on their work and plans, that they take their environment for granted. Don’t. Much of the comfort, joy, and healing God offers, He extends through the natural world in our immediate vicinity.
We don’t have to carve out time to visit a special place such as a nature center or a zoo. We can multi-task in our immediate place: do our work while observing and appreciating the expanse of grass and the textured bark on the trees lining our driveway or street. We can claim a second’s marvel at the contrast of colors and textures between the grey granite, the rich mulch, and the yellow rose. The many shades of green in the little woods behind our house impress and please me. A simple notation on the nearest nature soothes my soul.
This insight seems to be in conflict with my key passage listed above, II Corinthians 4:16-18. I quoted verse 16. Here are the following two verses:
“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”
Does this directive contradict my perspective? No. For, you see, by looking at the seen world, the visible world of creation, I am looking through it to the Creator and His purposes. This opens a huge door I’d love to enter, but won’t at this time. You see, I started this post weeks ago and finished it today, going in a bit of a different direction. It would be good for us to explore the relationship between the eternal, invisible world of God and His Word (eternal laws of reason that govern His creation) and the created universe(s).
So, let me finish — what it means to me to let God use His near-nature to sooth my soul:
I hurt all the time. I would guess that most people do. There are so many ways to hurt as a human being, living in a fragile and temporary body, in a fallen world that is groaning in anticipation of the freedom from corruption for which it waits. So many ways to hurt physically. So many ways to hurt emotionally, spiritually, economically, relationally. . . . God knows. In his mysterious wisdom, he has placed limits on pain, placing His first boundaries before pain existed when He created time and space — before He allowed His creation to experience a horrific fall from perfection.
While we await the return of perfection – His Kingdom come, His will be done – He has graced us, no matter where we live, with His invisible presence, His enlightening Reason (His Word), and His visible creation.
Reminds me of:
The natural world need not compete with the spiritual world but can remind me of it, declaring God’s glory. Moving reminds me of death, of separation, of leaving one place and going to another, of the brevity of life, of “numbering my days” and making the most of them, even through small, grateful observations. In these passing moments, I worship the Glorious Creator and imbibe the glory His creation. Such grace nourishes and sustains me.
May God and His glories, no matter where you live or what your schedule, nourish and sustain you.