Flickering Torches and Me

Those who have read for a while know that I’ve walked a fairly broken path for a fairly long time now. Life has been difficult, faith has been perplexing, and joy has been elusive. But lately there’re a lot of exciting things happening around me. To name just a few, there’s grad school, a great new job, an amazing person I’m getting to know…and all the countless things that go along with that. It’s not just that these things are exciting (and they absolutely are), but that they’re also changing me, rearranging my story as it goes.

Which is what’s so unbearable about it all. I have no idea where any of this is going. Could be good-and it seems so-but it could also end really badly. One of the things that the pain of the last few years took from me is the belief that things will generally be ok. They often aren’t. They even usually aren’t. But it’s not just pessimism per se-it’s the awful fear of hoping, hoping for something better, something fulfilling, something that works, and not knowing if you’re really going to get it.

This is what it is to be human-to have no vision outside of what is quite literally right in front of you. I’m struggling with that. I imagine scenarios and contingencies in my head all day, hoping to somehow get ahead of whatever might be coming my way. It’s not even that I’m sure it’s bad (anymore, though I did wrestle with that for quite some time) it’s that I just don’t know. I don’t know how it’s gonna go. And that scares the hell out of me.

So today I found myself in a position to have most of those hopes and fears pushed in on all at once. It went well, but I found myself driving home  wondering about all the possibilities of what might happen. I was freaking out, so I listened to the first song that came up on my music player. (Sidebar: It sucks when your iPod dies, and you have to use your phone. Sucks.) It’s the Indelible Grace version of “O Love that Will Not Let Me Go.” The second verse goes like this:

O light that followest all my way,
I yield my flickering torch to thee;
My heart restores its borrowed ray,
That in thy sunshine’s blaze its day
May brighter, fairer be.

That’s always been my favorite verse, because it speaks of letting go of your own ability to see and manage the future, and trusting God’s instead. Yielding your flickering torch to God’s light. It’s a beautiful thought, but one I struggle with, so this verse alway challenged me.
Today, though, it’s been a relief. Because the simple fact is I can’t see or shape the future-it’s beyond me. Trying to see it has left me fearful and worn out. Today I experienced that call not as a challenge, but as a promise. Not “this is the right way to relate to God,” but “You don’t have to carry that anymore.”
There’s still no promise things will work out. We’re never given that.*  There’s just the relief that comes from not having to carry the weight of a thousand potential futures on my own chest. There’s room to be a creature, who doesn’t know everything, because Jesus will still take care of me. I don’t have to take care of myself.
So for now, I’m laying down my flickering torch. It’s too damn heavy. And Jesus is far too good.


*(Obviously, in some eternal sense, I believe they will. But short-term, things can get and stay really ugly and painful.)

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