I spent this past weekend up at a camp in the Georgia mountains. On Sunday morning, after 24 hours filled with non-stop camp activity, I found a cozy balcony rocking chair to be still in for a moment before the rest of camp woke up. Coffee in hand, I attempted to morph out of the zombie-like state I had taken up residency in. My throat and nose and head had attracted some sort of illness in the night, and I could feel the weight of sleeplessness hanging heavy on my body. I tried to will myself to journal and open up scripture, but I instead became fixated on the trees around me.
When we arrived at camp Friday evening, I was pleasantly surprised that fall had been preserved until the middle of November. Typically, a southern storm will blow through and wipe all the leaves off their branches by late October, but this year the autumn has been slow, much to my satisfaction. That morning in the rocking chair, I wondered about the mystery it is that our hearts are captivated by the changing seasons. There is something in us that needs the leaves to change and the snow to fall and the blooms to rise up out of the ground like clockwork. We find beauty in the steady rhythms that nature promises to provide even when everything else around us is utterly chaotic. In the midst of exhaustion and need for rest, I could be sure that the leaves would still be bright and falling in the morning.
During the hardest semester of my college career, I wrote a song that’s chorus began with the line, “There’s a constant in the midst of all this chaos”. That semester my heart felt so out of control that it gravitated heavily towards its need for steadiness, its need for a love and peace and presence that is unwavering. I probably didn’t believe those words less than the day that I wrote them, but this week I have found them resurfacing over and over again. Although my heart feels a little more whole and a little more equipped to walk through the trenches of this life than it did that semester, I am unable to get away from a path defined by chaos.
I have no idea what God is currently calling me to. Maybe it’s writing or a counseling degree or moving out west, but he seems to be in no rush to give me an answer. I am working three jobs that have me running constantly. A couple of weekends ago I said goodbye to my childhood home and have been carrying that grief in a way I hadn’t anticipated. I am worried about finances and relationships and knowing how to set boundaries in a world that rebels against such things. On top of all my small, personal woes, we seem to be living in a time where our nation is defined more heavily by darkness. We are divided and hurting and constantly throwing grenades at the other side in an effort to prove a point. Everyone is dead set on screaming and no one has any interest in leaning in to listen to their neighbor. It is overwhelming at the very least. And it is easy to spiral into fear and self-protection when the truth of our inability to grab a hold of control comes smacking us in the face.
I keep thinking that if I build a solid foundation of community or mentorship or have all the right counseling structures in place, that my chaos will look a little more manageable. Although all those things are good and necessary, they are imperfect and cannot hold the weight of being our constants. Lysa TerKeurst says in her book Uninvited, “Things of this world all eventually reveal what incapable anchors they really are.” If we put our hope in things that are susceptible to chaos and failure, we will wind up disappointed at best.
All of my favorite things, all the things that make my heart just about leap out of my chest, are things that involve changing seasons. I love the first snowfall and strung Christmas lights and when the weather cools down to when it starts to warm back up again. I love when Nashville comes alive with new blooms and I count the days down until November 1st because I am a damn sucker for the Starbucks red cups. My heart anticipates the faithfulness of these things to keep showing up year after year and it longs for the embrace of an unchanging promise.
We need the morning sun to peak through our shades and the coffee to pour and the leaves to change. We need the steady streams of new mercies in a world (and life and heart) that seems set on spiraling out of control. But all of these things cannot sustain us. I find comfort in the small constants because I know that they are road signs pointing to the only Constant that we can put our trust in. We are hard wired to find comfort in the faithful rhythms of life because we have a God who knew we’d need some help finding our way back to him.
Much to my dismay, I believe that our lives will always be marked by chaos. In my (almost) 24 years I have not found anything else to be true. But when we really acknowledge all of our chaos, when we really begin to understand how out of control we are and that all of the other things we try to dress up as constants will fall away, we are left with the reality that we have a God who is faithful and unwavering. Just as the darkness makes the light more evident, when the chaos is overwhelming we are unable to ignore our need for the one true Constant.
All of my hope must be anchored in the truth that there is a constant in the midst of all this chaos.