Her eyes so often hold a question.
I remember last June, a season I’d been spending with Jesus abruptly came to an end.
For about nine months, we’d been meeting each day on the beach. Some days we’d walk back and forth along the shoreline. Sometimes we’d sit and stare at the waves. Sometimes I’d lean my head on his shoulder while we watched. Sometimes when I did this, he’d put his arm around my shoulder and sing over me. Other days, usually when I was upset with him for some reason, we’d stand facing each other on the sand while I let loose my diatribe and he took it all in stride and then responded in some totally unexpected but completely perfect way.
It was such a treasured time.
And then came the day we kept walking southward along the shoreline and turned a bend we’d never turned before. The familiar piece of shore we’d canvassed for nine months disappeared from view. Up ahead and to the right sat a piece of land jutting into the sea, covered in grass and ending with a steep drop-off cliff at its tip. On its south side sat a huge and rambling tree.
My time on the beach with Jesus was over.
The hard thing was that I didn’t know it was happening until it happened. I’d been content to walk with Jesus, exploring hither and yon on our daily beach dates, where sometimes I would lead and other times he would.
I had felt myself to be following his lead that day, but to me, we were just walking. I could tell he was leading, that he had a direction firmly in mind, but it wasn’t until we’d rounded the bend and walked up to that grassy knoll that I realized: This was our new destination.
We weren’t going back.
The other hard thing was that from our vantage point on the grassy cliff, I could see the beach we’d walked all those months. There it was, just out of reach. Here I was, in a new place. Here he was, too, with me in it, but I knew the other way we’d been sharing life together had come to an end. It was time for something new.
It hurt a lot when it happened.
I cried. I told my spiritual director, Elaine, it felt like he didn’t want to be with me anymore, and I couldn’t understand it. I stood face to face with Jesus, huge tears filling my eyes and spilling down my cheeks, and told him how much it hurt. Why didn’t he want to spend that uninterrupted time with me anymore? Why didn’t he want that intimacy we’d shared between us, just him and me? That experience of having me all to himself? Of having my undivided attention? Of experiencing my faithfulness to meet him each day on that beach that was ours? Why would he want to leave that space we shared? That season so beautiful?
Oh, yes. It hurt a lot.
The aftermath, when I realized what I’d lost without realizing I was losing it, was a painful time, and it was an awkward time.
He wanted to teach me a new way of being then, too, just like he does right now. He wanted to teach me how to look him in the eyes and have my own voice (which I wrote about here). He wanted to make me into a tree that allowed others to nestle inside its braches (which I wrote about here). He wanted to introduce me in greater depth to the Father and the Holy Spirit, beyond just being in relationship with himself, Jesus.
Eventually, I settled into the new territory and became familiar with its lush terrain. I became grateful for the chance to better know the Father and the Spirit. I came to love being a tree. I grew to love that cliff area. It’s still the place I regularly meet Jesus in our times of conversation. We like to sit with our legs hanging over the edge, looking north toward the beach shoreline we used to walk, often meeting there when we can watch the sun set over the ocean.
But it took time to receive. It took time to reorient. To accept this new thing.
That’s where I’ve continued to be with this “carrying stillness” journey I’m on right now. I know I must sound like a broken record, sharing all the angles of this new invitation that I’ve found difficult. But it is what it is. Changing course means reorientation, which always begins with disorientation. Leaving behind a beloved gift means sadness. Especially when that beloved gift was something that equated to pure and unadulterated intimacy with the Beloved of your heart, and you don’t understand why your Beloved would want something else.
I know he has his reasons. I even know they are good. But that doesn’t mean they’re easy.
And so today I’m in a similar place I was on that June day he walked with me around a corner on the beach shoreline, never to return.
I think about the spacious, quiet life I used to lead. The simplicity of it. The focus of it. The way it felt completely tied to giving him my whole heart with intentionality and prayerfulness and attending each day to the cares and cries of the world. The way living a small and quiet life felt like the call to hiddenness he’d planted in me years before.
I don’t know why he’d call me away from that. I wish it wasn’t so. To me, nothing seems better between us than that singleminded, devoted life I’d given him.
I do know he knows what he’s doing. I know his ways are better than mine. I trust someday — hopefully soon — I’ll be grateful for this turn in the journey.
But not today.
Today I’m still asking him if there can be some other way to keep things the way they were. And I know him well enough to know he’ll receive my tears and my asking with infinite patience and love, and also that he’ll respond in that perfect way he always does — a way that helps me accept what is.