“When You send Your breath, they are created, and You renew the face of the earth” (Psalm 104:30).
The first verse is the promise of youth being renewed. The second talks of God renewing the face of the earth – a broader promise which reminds me of the verse in Romans 8 about all creation groaning for redemption.
An amazing concept, renewal. It means God actively intervenes to repair damage and make something new again. Someone’s heart. The entire face of the earth. That is a beautiful picture.
This year, I’ve experienced what I’d term renewal in several areas of my life. It has meant a return of optimism. It has meant a fresh bubbling of hope. It has meant leaving behind difficult, painful past experiences and reaching forward to new pursuits and friendships.
For me, renewal looks like this in real life. I spent two years, from summer 2006 to summer 2008, in Germany. A barrage of experiences created a wealth of memories. My mind needs only a tiny trigger to trip the hammer and fire off a blast of images, emotions, laughter, and tears. When I moved to the States and began a challenging new job last fall, I did not realize what tempest still raged inside me. For months, I cried frequently and experienced an ache and longing I’d never felt before. I longed to go back, but I knew it was not the place for me any longer. I missed the places, the language, the missionary culture. Most of all, I missed the people. Seeing a group photo of my dorm girls, much less watching one of the year-end videos my coworkers produced, could instantly prompt a fit of weeping. Part of my heart was ripped out, savagely, and the wound continued to throb and fester for a long time.
Because my departure and transition to the States was so emotional, I neglected to fully recognize what had happened. I saw only its immediate effects, like a trauma victim who is dazed, feeling only pain and seeing blurry images. Now, after many months of healing, I can look back and see the experience more clearly. I can see that I invested a lot at Black Forest Academy; very slowly, sometimes unintentionally, and then deliberately. I loved many of my dorm girls and coworkers to a great depth; I embraced them as family. No wonder, after such investment of myself, it devastated me to leave.
“Devastated” is a good word for how I felt. Although I knew life would go on, I had a hard time picturing a community or a job as fulfilling as those I found at BFA.
But after devastation came renewal. As I look backward now, not from any great height or spiritual vantage point, but still, as a more stable person, I see that God began the process as soon as I reentered the States. As I nursed my wounds and cried my tears, He began to surround me with a community of friends and family here. As I complained to Him that no one here understood what I’d been through, He showed me that there were plenty of people willing to listen to my stories. As I stumbled through the first few months and struggled in my first year of teaching, I often felt cynicism creeping close. I experienced hardship. It was difficult to see that things were getting better – but they were. I was adjusting. God was renewing me.
This fall, I’ve recognized the renewing work and seen it come to near fruition. My second year of teaching is wonderful: I love it. I’ve recently moved out on my own, with a dear friend as a roommate, and am loving the settled feeling it brings. I look around and see people to love, a community to belong to and invest in, and new opportunities to pursue. I don’t know what the future holds, or even what is around the immediate bend in the road, but I know this: that my God is a God of renewal. Restoration. Rebirth. Re-creation. He has healed wounds I once thought irreparable. He has restored hope where it was dead. He has melted away cynicism and replaced it with trust in His abundance.
(As an addendum for LJ readers, I mainly blog now at I Wonder as I Wander, my Wordpress blog. Please catch up with me over there!)