Learning to Abide

Learning to Abide

“I’m waiting for resolve… but all I hear is abide.”

I wrote those words a year ago. Little did I know they would still be impacting my life today with even more intensity than they did back then. Little did I know that those were “the good times.”

Even now, I still haven’t figured out how to abide. Not even close. I haven’t learned to stay (even though I’ve been in the same geographic location for what seems like far too long). I haven’t learned to be present.

Instead, I’ve listened to repeated whispers that tell me, “There’s something more… there’s still so much more ”… the whispers that overpower the voices of family and friends who plead, “Your time will come” … “It will get better” … “Hang in there.” 

Have you ever felt as if you’re always two steps behind the life you had planned? I’m tired. I’m tired of wet eyes and a dry spirit. I’m tired of the dreams that keep me awake at night. And most of all, I’m tired of the burden of the life I’m not living as I crumble under its tantalizing weight.

I’ve kept anger my constant companion these past few months. Time and time again I’ve compared myself to those who “have it all” (hello, No One). I’ve questioned what I did wrong to get HERE. Here, where my world is hazy and the fog never seems to lift.

The original plan: I was supposed to climb Kilimanjaro and walk the Camino de Santiago (I even bought new hiking sandals the other day in the hope they might bring me one step closer). I was supposed to live in a small house in the woods, a la Thoreau, and “suck out all the marrow” of life. I was supposed to leave my mark on the world. 

I was supposed to do something… something more profound than graduating college with high honors, completing a year of international travel, and writing the first draft of a book. Disclaimer: I am grateful for the opportunities I’ve had; however, tidal waves of self-doubt and insecurity, combined with rivers of “what’s next?” from seemingly well-intentioned others, have left me gasping for air as I drown in a sea of worthlessness.

I was supposed to become something.

And that’s where the tension comes in. The tension between abiding and becoming, the tension that continually pulls me in two different directions and leaves me breathless.

Nevertheless, in this tension I am reminded: “A divine punishment is also a divine gift.”

Written by the ubiquitous author J.R.R. Tolkien in a letter to a fellow scholar, those words run deep. “A divine punishment is also a divine gift.”

Religion aside, I believe “punishments” are gifts in disguise--gifts of beauty, joy, and of course, freedom. And I know firsthand that freedom does not come without struggle. Freedom does not come without questioning. Freedom does not come without feelings of complete isolation and hopelessness.

Freedom doesn’t come without a price.

It reminds me of something I read about the changes that occur in gold as it’s refined. It’s a long and arduous process. Even when it seems to be complete, there are more impurities that rise to the surface and there’s likely more dross to burn.

I am that gold. You are that gold. Our dross is still being removed. At times, you may feel exposed. You may feel empty. You may even feel pain (burns do scar).

I have felt all of these. The process hurts. But I know the pain is necessary if I want to be refined, if I want to shine.

The moments of pain won’t last forever. I promise they won’t. This too shall pass.

How can I be so sure? Because this isn’t the first time I’ve gotten stuck in a moment.

I’ve felt pain when my voice was paralyzed and I sat silently in my classes, watching other students communicate freely.

I’ve felt pain when I was gripped by social anxiety and was too afraid to leave my college dorm room to enter the dining hall.

I’ve felt pain when I traveled the world and was forced to confide in and trust a group of strangers who were my only “family” for a year.

At the time, each of these things was the “hardest thing I ever experienced," the thing I was convinced I would never get through. But now, looking back, they were simply hard things I struggled with, but managed to successfully overcome.

I’m sure you can relate to these moments of pain. Remember the hard things you’ve struggled with. Remember when you didn’t have it all figured out. And now reflect on your accomplishments, the things you’ve done in spite of feeling stuck in a moment.

You are here, at this particular moment in time, for a reason. You took a turn, chose a path, and ended up right here.

I know that someday I’ll fulfill my dreams. I know that someday I’ll make that trek and climb those mountains. But fortunately, someday isn’t today. Because today, there is more refining to be done. And one day, someday will be more glorious than I ever could have imagined.

Today? Today, I can believe that a beautiful world exists even when I can only see the fog.

Today I can live in the now with my feet firmly planted. I can stay. I can abide.

No, I may not discover resolve (now or ever), but in the process, I may just discover freedom.

So I ask you, please be present. Please stay. Please abide. You’re not alone. I’m still here, figuring it all out too. One minute at a time.

[Photo by Juliette Kibodeaux.]

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