Every hour is a precious boon; Every breath is a mercy. Every glimpse of yonder moon, A balm upon this journey. How vast the heavens above this place So small beneath His glory.. Still He stooped and showed His face And poured His mercy o’er me. Jesus, our Messiah King For those who don’t deserve Him! Conquered death all life to bring, So seek His face and serve Him O serve Him… praise His name forever!
[Serve Him – Andrew Peterson]
Every day here has been characterized by unexpected, small but resounding gifts from Jesus. I have been learning to seek gratitude even when I don’t feel like it, and God has been turning my eyes up and all around to see His presence and His gifts of grace everywhere I look, and sometimes when I’m not looking.
Let me share a story of one of these gifts…
On Sunday, I left my apartment with enough time to get to church, but since I have no understanding of time and distance, I got there 15 minutes early. If you know me at all, you know how much I hate arriving to social functions early and making small talk. I took a moment to think about what to do to stall time for 15 minutes, but decided to be an adult about it and just go inside. I was greeted by the familiar faces and congratulatory welcomes for not getting lost, and then gifted by one of the best conversation’s I’ve had since arriving here. My new friend- a man from France (my church is international) came over to me and we started talking about our weeks, our jobs… he told me he was an engineer and I started off on how my boyfriend is an engineer and this is what he’s doing right now and he is going to move to Guam and Guam is only a 6 hour plane ride from here— halfway through I realized I was rambling, as always. He asked how we were doing with the long distance, and I gave a shallow, surface-level reply along the lines of, “It’s hard but it’s good!” Something I’m being humbled by lately is how inauthentic I can be with people, because my friend’s response instantly drowned mine. He is in a long-distance-for-a-year relationship too, and as he shared the struggles and difficulties, he started sharing what God is teaching him, all that God is showing him through the hardship.
This 15-minute gift was small, short, but resounding in impact.
In short, this friend’s words echoed the words of my own heart in this shared experience. “Hard, but good” is all I could come up with, but those three words merely envelope what this experience has truly been for us- for Andrew and I and the sweet French lovers who are also apart.
What has this “experience” been like? It has been so completely difficult and so incredibly good all at the same time. My friend and I talked about the first verses of Romans 5: “…we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God,” and also, “We also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope.” This is what God reminds me of when I just want to lay on my bed and weep about how much I miss Andrew— He is so gracious to give us this time, this whole year of learning and growing. I am learning that what is true in Romans 5 is true for this one year, and it is true for the rest of my life. We will always have to persevere.
I often tell people that Andrew & I “prepared” for this year apart, but we didn’t really. All that happened, all that has been happening since spring of 2013 is God’s continual, gracious asking: “Are you willing?” To which we keep saying “Yes.” Every time He asks me, and each time I respond and step forward, my whole life shudders a little bit and I find myself standing with less certainty, less clarity, but more faith and more of God. I find I am still standing, holding on tighter to His hand, and when the dust clears I can slowly start to see all the beauty of the promises He reveals in the saying “yes.” It is the place of “Amen,” and it is beautiful. Though it is hard and scary, it is producing hope!
It is hard to think about how much time there remains between now and the time when I will see Andrew again. It is hard to sit alone in a studio apartment and think about the last time I felt him hug me. It is harder, still to have no idea what everything will look like one year from now. Simply put, it is hard to be apart…
But like my friend on Sunday said so perfectly, “God just deals so kindly with me! He is so delicate with me.” And I echo his thoughts completely- would I go back to him/her in our own country if I could? Yes! Tomorrow! I would! But then I pause in that thought and reconsider. All that God has taught me (and my friend) in this short time already has been life-changing. I lmiss Andrew terribly, my friend loves his girl with a deep, faithful and boyish love, but we both agreed we would never trade this year, these lessons, this depth of God’s presence in our alone-ness for the together-ness with the ones we love.
Like I said before, Andrew and I didn’t really “prepare” for this, though we’ve known for months ahead of time. God in his kindness and his delicate-dealing with our hearts showed us Himself in the days and weeks leading up to this year, giving us so much to be thankful for and so much to remember during this year apart. I remember one afternoon we were talking about my upcoming move and I was struck almost suddenly with a deep, and painful joy. I tried to explain to poor, perplexed Andrew where this sudden stream of tears had erupted from, but all I could muster was this; Jesus is so good to us! My thoughts then mirror my thoughts here and now: We have been given so many wonderful, beautiful times together before we have to be separated, and recalling God’s goodness to us over the past year and a half carries us into a beautiful hope for the future. We have been on so many long, fun road trips, we have seen some of our best friends commit their lives to each other, we have cried over poems and the Gospel and grace together, we have climbed to the highest peak of mountain tops and scrambled over huge rocks on more hikes than I can count, we have introduced each other to the people we love most and tied so many relationships from our pasts together, we have camped out in parking lots with friends, we have read entire books out loud to each other, we have watched fireworks together, we have knelt and held out our hands to receive eucharist together, we have prayed aloud for each other and for family and for friends, we have raced through woods, we have explored new cities, we have eaten incredible food, we have sat on the back of the car on the side of the road to watch the sunset, we have driven along 100 miles of mountain tops, we have discovered deep corners of our hearts that we didn’t know needed light until the other stepped in, and we have tasted deeper, sweeter waters of Grace.
Even still, it is by sure grace that we are now on our greatest adventure yet.. and we are oceans apart.
All I can say after a year and a half with Andrew, and after only two weeks of living across the globe from him is still, still: Jesus is so good to us. We have learned more of who He is in these beautiful times, and now He is asking to show us more of Himself in this hard time. So we will keep saying “yes!” because it is good, He is good.
Singer/songwriter, Andrew Peterson defines so much of our journey together (in case you haven’t noticed by now)… so here is a song I’ve been listening to on repeat that resonates with this “hard but good” and all the outpourings of grace in the midst of it all! May this be our prayer this year, and for all the years to come.