Earlier this morning I was messaging a friend, telling them how I was in a slump.
I was telling them how I was trying to figure out what it was, and how it felt so wrong after some of the things that God has been changing within me, during the last couple months particularly. They were difficult times, but also fantastically joyous ones since I was leaning against him and it was wonderful. I was living with him throughout each day as I knew I should. He was gently bringing me into something new. He still is, but…something is different. And it’s certainly not him.
After that messaging, I went out into the hall in my school. Today was a surprise day of no classes since the grade 5 classes I usually co-teach had gone out on a field trip. I was tidying up some teaching tidbits, then went to do one of my favourite things here when I have no classes: look out the window and think and talk to him.
I was peering outside of a window in a central hallway, quiet with classes in session and facing the back of the school and the small collection of parking spaces it holds. Beyond that is a two lane street and then the taekwondo place, among other things. It’s a four-story building with some other businesses or activities inside, and the top floor is an apartment with a rooftop terrace. Beside that, there’s a slightly smaller building with a store filled with school supplies and snacks and such for the students, a suite for piano lessons, and some other things I’m still a little unsure about.
I was watching the morning as it happened outside, resting my arms on the metal bar that runs across the bottom of all the windows. Through this open window (for here in Korea, even in winter the windows and doors of many places will still be open for fresh air to flow) I was seeing students running to catch the university bus that I know stops around the corner of my school, an ajumma gardening in a plot of land between two apartment buildings, and another ajumma hauling her cart full of stuff down the street. Also across the way was a man wearing track pants with his winter jacket, yawning and entering a convenience store that sits beside a Korean chicken restaurant. In the top suite of the taekwondo building, there were full-length glass sliding doors leading out to the terrace facing me and also to the opposite side of the building, letting the sunlight stream through one side and out the other. Framed between them I saw the silhouette of a woman, putting her hair up as she went about her home. I heard some distant traffic and the occasional voice, and aside from some birds nattering at each other, it was largely quiet and crisp.
Then I saw a single bird trying to find it’s way into this same building. It was mostly black, with some white parts. It had a longer tail and decent sized beak, from what I could tell far away in my own perch. It was using its longish beak to seemingly try and pry into a window midway up this building, which, along with half the building, was covered with a plastic advertisement for English textbooks and the taekwondo club. It perched on a small ledge as it tried to find an opening, then flapped back to a leaf-bare tree in front of the building. Then it flapped its way across once again, trying the same thing. It did this for a while, then it tried finding another entrance in some kind of covered pipe on the same side of the building. The whole time I thought, If it would only try a different place and fly little lower down, then it could walk straight in the open front door!
As I continued to watch this bird and its futility, I wondered if that was me. Then I wondered whether I was assigning deeper meaning where there was none to be had. Then I promptly dismissed that thought, knowing there can be meaning in anything – even in me staring out a window watching a senseless bird.
I thought that there must be something good emanating from that building – maybe a scent or something that has that bird so stubborn about trying to get inside. It knows there’s something good in there, but is going about getting inside the wrong way.
Then I stopped my wondering and realized, I really am that bird.
That bird is me in this slump. I’ve been feeling like I’m outside lately, trying to find a way back inside. I know I’m not the only one, from reading other people’s recent experiences.
October was a wonderful month for me. As I mentioned earlier, God did a lot with me then, and it was because I had him first. I was seeking him with my whole heart. I leaned on him for everything, and now, well, I’m just not. I’m not leaning the same, and I’m getting distracted with things which I know their nature is such. I didn’t want to admit they were, that they are distracting me, silently, slowly detracting Jesus from my awareness every day. I wasn’t being obedient to what I knew was true, no matter if it was big or small.
It’s quite a thing, isn’t it? How we learn so much so well in a season, then forget to keep using that head and heart knowledge when we need it? How, we have learned so much and yet have infinitely more to learn? How does that happen? Is this unavoidable? Do I have to keep going through the same cycles?
It’s a tired phrase, but true. That’s life. An explanation of why things are the way they are, of why things feel like someone was sucking something out of you while you weren’t looking, because you really weren’t looking. An explanation that wonders how you’ll get that back, that wonders how you’ll be tipped right side up once again so you stop leaking yourself all over the place, and start giving it out intentionally and a lot less messily again. An explanation that feels like it’s cornered, hunkered down behind fallen and crumbling cement blocks, out of ammo, all alone, having given up all hope of getting out intact as your foes slowly circle you.
And that’s when it happens.
That’s when our shining hero comes bursting on the scene, taking out all the foes surrounding us and rescuing us. It’s a grand gesture. Fueled by his grace and love. And sure, he could have come sooner – but he comes in his time. Sometimes that’s when we’ve gotten to a place where we are again desperate for him, where we toss our pride out the window, smashing it to bits and accept his help gladly.
He takes our hand then and, pulling us up from the wreckage and dust, says, “Come with me if you want to live.” Truly live. And without the Arnold Schwarzenegger Terminator voice, too. He says it in a way that makes you smile with relief, that pricks your eyes hotly with tears before you even know it, and you keep hold of his hand warm around yours (no cold, robotic metal hand here). You go with him because you want to see where he takes you. You want to see, to keep seeing, what life is like when you truly live with him at the center. You want to see what your life is like when you’re not just surviving in some post-apocalyptic scene, rationing things to survive and always looking around corners, where everything is broken and dusty.
Or maybe it’s just a fraction of that. Maybe things aren’t completely broken, maybe they’re just dusty, but you know they’re not what they should be. You want to get back to where you were with him before something drew your eyes away from him.
You want to get back to that place you know is ahead of you, that you know is somewhere good and true and whole and satisfying. That place where your heart’s desires nest, that place where you delight in your weakness and his strength. That place where you are drawn to because we were all created to want it and need it and nothing else will do. You know no halfway existence will do, because he’s been writing an epic, sprawling story since before pen and paper were even a thought, and he wants your part in it to be sweetly heroic, grandly humble and full of your heart that beats with his pure blood. This is where he’ll take you.
It won’t be easy. No good story ever is.
Just remember: he’ll always be there, because he’s much more than any future-forged, practically-indestructible guardian robot with snappy one-liners. He is, and he wants us to grip his hand and trust him.
And if we do, but then we don’t? Don’t worry. He’ll be back, to offer his hand and keep taking us closer and closer to our future, to his future, to the best one – the one you’ve been waiting for.