When I lived in the little house in the middle of town, some days would feel claustrophobic. There were neighbors across the street with children who banged on my door at all hours of the day. During the night there were cars and drug deals and the sweet smell of marijuana drifting in my bedroom window.
I wasn’t there for myself, I was there for them. For the chocolate eyed little girls and the swaggering tough-boys and the moms who sat on my porch chain-smoking and telling me how they’ve been trying their whole lives and why was I different?
I was there to tell them about Jesus but I still got claustrophobic.
So I started waking up early to go for a run. I never liked running before that year. I once heard it described as “controlled-falling” and felt it an accurate description. But that year I ran until all the houses were left behind. It wasn’t far– just down the street, around the corner, up the hill. Across from the cemetery a path cut into the forest and I walked three feet and the road and the world disappeared.
A few yard further and a creek cut into the hillside, splashing and gurgling its way downward. A waterfall crashed against the slate rock and every other noise was drown out.
Spring had just arrived and there was a towering lilac bush, right on the edge of the waterfall. The air was sweet, and it wasn’t drugs, and I would sit and drink it all in, letting my soul breathe.
It was standing on the rock, next to the crashing waterfall, with the smell of lilacs wafting about me, that I first whispered the words. “You know, God, I don’t think I’m cut out to be single forever, but you’re the boss. I give up all these desires for a husband and family.”
Just a short period of mission work and I was feeling the weight of working alone. Oh, I had friends and helpers, even family close by, but there was something in my soul that longed for a partner who lived out the day-to-day right beside me. But God kept answering my prayers with, “No” and “Trust me” and “Surrender, my daughter, surrender.”
I looked down and saw that the lilac bloom in my hand was crushed under the intensity of my prayer. I didn’t want to pray it, I hardly even believed the prayer, but I knew I had to. Yet, something in me was clinging tight to the lilac, to my dreams of a springtime wedding, to my hopes for a husband and partner to materialize from thin air.
I forced my fingers to relax their grip. Slowly I lifted my arm and tossed the lilac into the water, waiting to watch it spill over the edge of the waterfall. It didn’t though. Instead it rushed madly along until an undercurrent caught it and pulled it backward, into a small pool of still water, right near the edge.
God’s voice echoed through the water. “Giving something up doesn’t always mean it will go away.”
The next year of my life flew by. My practice of walking across the street to share the gospel was tested to the limits as God sent me half-way across the world. When I flew home for my grandfather’s funeral that next spring, I took a jog down cemetery road, through the woods, to the waterfall. The lilacs weren’t blooming, but I still found a few lily-of -the-valley carpeting the forest floor. I picked a handful and sat back on the rocks to breathe in the scent and think about the man who had come to my parent’s house for dinner.
Somehow I knew that before the years end, I would be married, and I was.
The next spring I filled the house with lilacs and went to the forest to collect a bouquet of lily-of-the-valley. I sat on the edge of the creek and cried. Marriage was beautiful, but my inability to have children, a truth I thought I had conquered, was tearing me apart.
Silent tears streamed down and I gave it all back again. The family I had dreamed off. The hoped for moments of announcing a pregnancy. The daughter with curly hair and my mama’s gray eyes.
I let my hand trail in the water, the cool splashes sending goosebumps up my arm. “Trust me,” He said. “Surrender, my daughter, surrender.”
I finally realized that it is a lifelong lesson. Every dream would go through the same cycle. Hopes, prayers, petitions– surrender, trust, waiting.
And some dreams would tumble out and over the edge of the waterfall– disappearing forever. And others?–they would be scooped up by an undercurrent and brought to rest in a calm pool in front of me. But if I stood and stared after the ones that disappeared, I would forever miss the beauty at my feet.
Surrender. Trust. Waiting.
Believing that God wants good for my life, even if my dreams disappear.
Believing that the dreams He brings back to my feet are for a greater purpose than anything I could have dreamed up for myself.
Wherever you are in the cycle, friend, know that He is working all things out for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.