Friday, February 8, 2013

Closed Doors, Empty Hallways, and God

I haven’t written as much about my personal walk with Christ these past few months, partly because it’s been too much to get into words. This blog entry has been heavy on my heart for a long time, but it kept trying to wrap itself in the security of all the right words and Christian phrases, and that got it so tangled that it choked up my creativity. So I’ll just aim for honesty instead.

College was hard (and I’ve said that so much that it’s barely even necessary anymore). As I approached graduation, God told me pretty clearly I needed to head out-- away from Texas. After months of prayer and uncertainty, a very dear friend who I’ve known since I was 14 let me know her house in Colorado Springs (already a second home to me) was open to me for however long I needed to get on my feet. I prayed some more, and God told me this was the next step He was giving me.

Broke, weary from four years of full time college and working multiple jobs, having no firm idea of what I would do... I bought a car for $25, got rid of a lot of my stuff, packed up some of what was left, and set off for Colorado. I came up with lots of reasons to tell people why I was going out there, but I knew the real reason, the reason that would make a lot of people say I am crazy: I was chasing God. I’d heard Him whisper to me the simple word “come.” So I went.

I will be honest: I was obedient when God asked me to leave what I knew behind, but I was also very much still operating under the mindset that this earned me something, however indirectly. You surrender to God, God does good things. That’s how it works, right? I felt sure that He must be sending me out there because He has some mission for me to do, some huge job opportunity, something to justify the sacrifice I was making.

We are rarely taught how to handle it when we give everything to God and things turn out nothing like we expected. After 30-something job applications and a half dozen interviews, I had heard these basic things many times: “you are talented, you are qualified, but because of [insert random out-of-the-blue reason here] we can’t hire you.”

In this process, at least twice I had interviews for jobs that I would have considered exactly what I expected God to do with my life. Both times I was told I was qualified, and both times something completely out of my control happened to close the door (and slam and lock it in my face). And instead of saving the world, I found myself doing different things entirely-- spending hours on the phone and typing e-mails to friends and family. Babysitting my friend’s two precious children, learning how to play again. Helping admin one of my favorite bands’ street team. Scrubbing toilets and taking out the trash at a local vocational school to earn money for bills. Trading in my car for scrap metal to fund plane tickets.

These are all things that feel very small to me compared to what I had assumed would happen. Everything I sacrificed seemed to have seen no return. It felt like I’d been walking down a long, empty hallway for months, frantically knocking on every door I encountered-- sometimes seeing them open just enough to give me a glimpse of something beyond before they closed again. But slowly that perspective has been changing.

When I was in college, the classrooms may have been my destinations, but that doesn’t mean that nothing was happening in the hallways. Many of the conversations I had happened because I bumped into someone on the way to class. I saw people playing games in hallways, I sang songs in hallways, I had time to think. Hallways are not empty when we start to pay attention to the other people there-- people we would not have met had we been in a room at that point in time. Those little things we do in transit, the conversations that happen, the time for thinking-- these things are not as insignificant as we think they are (especially when we stop seeing things as coincidences and instead understand the intentionality of something beyond us at work). These every day moments may seem small in themselves, but they build something bigger. I have had some of my most meaningful conversations in hallways, and I have built some of my strongest friendships in hallways-- both literal and figurative.

More importantly for me, I have come to believe this: God is not hiding behind one of these closed doors, laughing to see us stuck on the other side. He’s with us in the hallway. This is not a cosmic game of hide and seek. This is a steady walking with a Person who is as much in the process as in the destination. Maybe one of these doors will be opened someday, but if so it will be opened not from the other side, but by the One who has been walking beside me this whole time.

Every time I’ve felt like this time has been wasted, I’ve heard Him say “I am with you.” And every time I’ve pounded my fist against a closed door, I’ve heard Him say “I am still with you.” And every time I’ve asked an unanswerable question, I’ve heard Him say “I’m not leaving.” And that has been slowly teaching me something new, something hard, something beautiful: the end goal of all this was never a job or a mission or a ministry, as valuable as those things are. It was Him. I came to Colorado, and I will leave Colorado, for one reason alone... to know Him more.

And all of this makes me wonder if any good I think is behind these locked doors is a myth anyway. The future is not a long list of possible options anymore. There are only two for me now-- to walk with God, or to not. And as long as I am walking with Him, I am in the place where I am supposed to be.

And I know this is very uncool and very theologically simplistic of me, but what I’m trying to say is this: maybe more than ever before, I feel like there is nothing in this world for me but Jesus Christ. And as long as He goes with me, I don’t care anymore which doors I go through.

Be blessed today, wherever you're coming from as you read this. Thanks so much to so many of you who have been hanging out in the hallway with me-- I am so grateful.

- Elraen -


MangyCat said...

Beautiful and poignant thoughts. Sometimes the simple faith is the best. We get so wrapped up in the many theologies and theories and whys that we forget the simple facts: that God is with us, He loves us, and He will never leave us. It is a childlike trust but one that comes with no expectations.

It has been an honor to walk the hallway with you for this time in your life. Soon we will hug and say goodbye, and it will be my honor to watch you continue to grow in your faith as your journey goes on.

God has changed you and holds your hand tighter than ever. My prayer for you is that you would always be aware that God is present and in control--even when things don't look the way the brochure touted.

I think God is a fan of taking the scenic route. Those side journeys often create the best memories and stick with us for many years to come. May you relish in the joys of these side road trips God is taking you on. May you always be ready to walk in between the destinations with Him by your side.

After all, if you're going to peek through a cracked door, who better than God to peek with you and say, "Not here. Let's keep going and talk about it on the way."

Lina said...

Hallways are hard, but they do teach us a lot about depending on God completely! I keep wondering if I'll get past "Trust 101," but I'm beginning to think that it's a lifetime course. His ways are not our ways, and as you look back on this season I'm sure you'll start to see His goodness to you in not following your plan, but His.

NarnianWarHorse said...

'One road leads home— and a thousand roads lead into the wilderness.'
--C.S. Lewis

Hmm, sounds like you're walking down a hallway soaked in wisdom right now, & it's really rubbing off on you beautifully. :)

I hope you know that YOU are a masterfully beautiful, vibrant person, & any moments I've gotten to walk with you have really made me examine my expectations & motives, and have been nothing short of a contagious joy; (So C.S. Lewis /has/ been to Moot! :P) I look forward to many more moments like these this side of Eternity!

...And I can't wait to see what adventures God has waiting for you just over the next ridge...