I’m certain I’m not the only one who often pauses to wonder what the me of 5, 10, and 15 years ago would think of where I am now.
Would the Jess with one semester left at Carolina have imagined I’d have packed my bags for graduate school in Australia, rather than settling into a cozy apartment in Sweden? Would freshman in high school Jess have imagined I’d ever have lived abroad at all?
No, I don’t imagine so. But in the past month, as I’ve packed up my belongings and wrapped up goodbyes, I’ve gotten a strong and decidedly sweet picture of just how clearly God has called me where He’s called me, and I’ve caught glimpses of how intricately He weaves our stories together, even if it’s in the most unexpected ways.
In flipping through high school and college journals, I saw notes written in the margins about possible grad school programs and lists of places I’d like to travel. Though I wouldn’t have said I’d been thinking about graduate school in Australia 10 years ago, I can see how all the different pieces have been on my heart for a while. Most importantly, I saw in abundance how God has been creating in me a heart for adventure, and a heart for His will, over the past decade.
I’ve also seen God weave together some of the more broken parts of my story with the brokenness of my dear friends, allowing us to speak the Gospel into each other’s lives from a place of experience. I can speak more clearly about how God’s light shines in the midst of anxiety this January than I could in January of 2018, and while I wouldn’t say I enjoyed months that often felt ruled by anxiety, it has been sweet to see how God has used my experience to push myself and others towards Himself.
But for every thread I’ve seen lead to something beautiful, it seems I can follow a different thread to a frayed, unfinished end. There are many aspects of my story that are still waiting for resolution, and I’m eager, and frankly impatient, to see God work things out.
And while my God is a master artist, a great storyteller, and an expert designer, He certainly isn’t confining Himself to my timeline. Perhaps that’s because my story isn’t the greatest story to be told.
The book of Matthew opens with the genealogy of Christ, giving us a peek into the lives and stories God wove together to lead us to the birth of Christ. It is a table of contents of incredible stories of God’s mighty work. Each person highlighted had dreams and hopes and a soul, and their individual stories are important, but their lives come together to tell the story of God’s ultimate redemption of His people, and that’s the real narrative arc.
Sometimes we don’t get to see how all the pieces come together. In Jeremiah 29, the prophet Jeremiah tells God’s people that He will bring them out of exile – in 70 years. God commands His people to hunker down and build lives where they are, and to “seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.” (Jeremiah 29:7).
There are a number of important things that can be drawn from this passage, but one that stuck out to me was the fact that this promised rescue from exile won’t likely be seen by anyone alive to hear Jeremiah’s words. They didn’t get to see the whole of God’s work, but they were invited to play a part in it. Redemption was coming, and they would participate, but the entirety of the scope of this redemptive work would take longer than their lifetimes.
So it is with us, and with our stories. So it was with Ruth, Abraham, David, Solomon, and Rahab. They all sit in the lineage of Christ, but none of them lived to see the Savior arrive. My story sits somewhere in the redemptive arc of Christ, and it is an honor and a privilege both to be included in that redemptive work, and to sometimes be able to see how God is moving in and through me.
I know some days I will wake up more frustrated than others, wondering why God is doing what He’s doing, and why He’s leaving some threads still tangled and messy. That’s how I woke up this morning. But I remind myself that God is working, I preach the Gospel to myself, and I hang my hat on this truth – that God works all things for His glory, which is my good.