This semester is almost over. One paper and one final and this baby will be gone, gone, gone. Shrinking in the rearview mirror the way the past gets so good at doing.
And somehow in the mess of joy and stress, this saying goodbye to Fall 2012 has turned itself into something bittersweet.
Because in the past five months I have grown and changed and learned so much. So much has happened, and God has done so many beautiful works in my life. And I’m finding it a little difficult to let go of the hands of Fall 2012, letting it stay here while I move forward into a new year.
So let me tell you. About the ways this semester grew me. It’s a good one, friends. It’s a good one.
This semester, I learned more about my God. I’ve come closer to him, breathed in His beauty in ways I’ve never breathed before, and I have learned to pray. In a heart-laid-bare, tears on my cheeks, hands lifted up, quiet, sometimes broken, often joyful way. And I’ve remembered again something that I somehow once forgot. He will meet me there every time. With the kind of love that once gave a Son to live and die for me. And for you. The kind of love that He is teaching stubborn, wrongfully willful me to let pour out of me and onto you. He is placing a passion in my heart to see you feel His love too, and to know all His mercy and miraculous peace too. And this has made me better. And He has had a Hand in everything else that has made me better this semester. And as always, I thank Him for that grace.
This semester, I learned the limits of my strength. I think I’ve told you that I used to fancy myself a little bit of a super-hero. Cape whipping in the wind, hands on hips, hair heavy with the weight of my sheer awesomeness. I thought I could be the strong one. For you. For me. For anybody who happened to need strength, because I had plenty to lend. And then I watched one I love so dearly rock in a chair with defeat on her face and fear and tears in her eyes and I did not have the strength to pull her up out of that chair and despair. And I suddenly knew that I was weak. And that knowing broke me a little bit. And when I finally let myself cry, I wept. I read once that crying and weeping are two very different things. I wept. And I had to learn to turn my weakness into prayers. And now I know what makes me strong. Because I am strong, but not in the ways that I believed before. I’ve not got a cape, and I don’t need a uniform. I’m just a girl with a great faith in a wonderful Lord, with family who listens and brings flowers and soup and brown paper bags full of love. A girl with eyes that watched God’s hands lift the one I treasure out of the chair, set her feet gently on the ground, and walks lovingly by her as she takes steps out of the door and into the world. And this has made me strong.
This semester, I found friendship. With people who bless me every single day. They’ve taught me so much about sharing life with others. Because as I held the idea of myself as a super-hero, I was lonely. I didn’t know myself as well as I thought I did, and I didn’t know others as well as I believed I did. And because I couldn’t let the people I knew in, even when I was sitting with them, I sat alone. And as precious as those people in my past are to me, I know now that I did not cherish or allow myself to be cherished right. But these people of Fall 2012 came storming into my life with the joyous feet I now know them to have, and I have not eaten alone since then. And they have taught me what true friendship feels like. It’s authentic laughter, doubled up, laying on a university sidewalk with a torn leaf littering the ground. It’s hands on my shoulders in a dark auditorium as I cry into the prayer filled air. It’s sitting next to each other while you read one of my favorite childhood books out loud, character voices and all. It’s slipping into white uniforms and tying belts tight with each other, and learning what these fantastic bodies can do with a good front kick. It’s the way you all listen. And talk. And the way that the pond has come to be a picture of the green pastures and still waters in the twenty-third psalm to me. And the way the space we share is filled with food and love and laughter and tears and sarcasm and dancing and joy and the innards of pumpkins and pictures. You have helped teach me friendship. And this has made me feel whole.
This semester, I learned that God is still making men that look like Him. And although I once believed it, long ago, the shadows of heartbreak and leaving and the ones who didn’t listen to my heart made me start to believe it wasn’t so. But in the past five months, God gave me an example, a clear picture, of the godly men He has always been making. Men who pray. Over and for everything. A man who would pray for me. Men who listen. A man who would listen to my heart as I shared it. Men who are masculine, yet gentle. A man who would be gentle towards me. Men who treasure things in this life, who don’t live for the thrill of the chasing and languish in the work of the keeping. Men who are patient. In a way which has taught me how to be patient in places that I never have been before. Men who show me more about the character of Christ, just by the way that they live. Faithful, prayerful, waiting, laughing, honest, warm, competitive, masculine, thoughtful, kind, loving. I can tell you with certainty that God is making these men, even now, right now, today. Because He showed me such a man this semester. And this has taught me to hope.
This semester, I learned to let go of my regret. About the choices I have made in the past. It was a hard thing, the letting go. It almost felt like I was laying down a part of myself, because I had held it close for so long. Not close because I treasured it. Close because I used it to keep you away. Close, because I knew that if you saw the choices I’d made, you would immediately turn away. So I did not give you the chance, and I watered the bitter blooms of my regret until they rose up and they choked me. And the time came when I had to set them down. On the side of the road I had wandered on. And God used a few good people to help me lift the load off my soul. I am so grateful to them. For the words they spoke out of grace in a booth during an interview, on the sidewalk outside of a praise-filled building, over the black trash bag between us being used to clean out the car. Because when I gave all the pieces to God that I’d been withholding, grace rushed in. And this taught me to feel worthy again.
This semester is one that I will not forget. Fall 2012 was used to shape me into a better me. Filled with the joy of the Lord, understanding my strength, delighting in friendships, restored of hope for a godly man, feeling worthy of the love of people again. God blessed me and grew me in the last five months. And if you were a part of the magic, I cannot say anything to you but a thank you that echoes in the deepest parts of me. And know that I love you in a way that warms every piece and part of my heart.
-Jessi Sanders 2012