Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Dear Hilary, Love, Hilary (Advice Again)

I tried this experiment in the month of May, when I wrote an advice column to myself. I asked the question (about dreaming) and tried to give an answer (it was incomplete). Today I'm wondering another question, and I wanted to share it with you. And of course, I'm inspired, constantly, it seems, by Dear Sugar's words of beauty and truth, truth that enters the room and sits there. And she inspires me, with the possibility of learning to listen to the quiet place and learning to live from it. 
So, here goes nothing:

Dear Hilary,

I went on a run the other day, and I got to a juncture in the road and I started wondering if God's forgotten about me. I mean, I'm standing in the road, wondering if I should continue up the hill and go over it, or take a left and go up a different hill, if my feet will carry me anywhere, or if I should turn around before it's too late, and the thought just enters my mind and it won't leave me alone. How long are you going to do this? I want to shout at Him. How long are you going to keep me waiting, and wondering, and becoming discouraged and resigning myself which really just means I hope harder and in a more secret place? How long are you going to make me feel like an idiot for believing that you want all the good things for me that I want, but don't have? And I want to believe that He cares, Hilary, I really do. But He feels far away, and I keep waiting, and I feel disappointed, and... by the end of the run I'm back to this place of wanting to hope for love, for becoming a writer and a scholar, for running a school, for having a family. And being afraid to.

What do I do? Has He forgotten me? 

Running (and Hoping)


Dear Running and Hoping, 

Psalm 27.13-14. Read it. I'll make it easy for you. I'll write it right here with you: "I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong, take heart, and wait for the Lord." Now say it out loud with me: sound out those words. And then listen to the New King James Version of these same two verses: 

I would have lost heart, unless I had believed
  That I would see the goodness of the LORD
 In the land of the living.
Wait on the LORD;
  Be of good courage,
    And He shall strengthen your heart;
       Wait, I say, on the LORD!

You are not the first person to admonish your heart to do something it did not want to do. In fact, I would bet you every word that's ever been written on this blog, and elsewhere, in fact, every word that's been written, period, that you are not the first person to ask your heart to be strong when it doesn't want to be. There are heaps of good stories and words about this very thing. But it doesn't change anything about what you have to do: you still have to ask your heart to be courageous and strong. You still have to teach it to hope, and believe, and love.

Now, as to why you wonder about whether you will wait forever, and hope in vain. There are people who will give you complicated answers to why you do not yet have the love you want, the career you imagine, and the family, and the ... it goes on. But it is simple. You do not have those things because it is not time for you to hold those things. You want them, yes, and you see others with them. And it's so tempting (like second tray of chocolates in the box tempting) to compare. Oh, you say, she has the boyfriend because she is... and that must mean I'm not... They got into this graduate school, and they're so much smarter... And this isn't happening because I messed this up, or I failed to do that...

And I want to tell you to stop doing that. It is a waste of time. You have one, only one, "wild and precious life" (Mary Oliver's word, not mine). You have one, only one, heart. Why would you squander it in comparisons, in the empty eyes of has and has not? And why should you waste it in fear that God has forgotten you, when He made the desires you feel so achingly, so poignantly? But He didn't make you for the desires. He made you for Himself. And that's what you have, have to overflowing: Him. He hasn't forgotten you, Hilary. Isn't it a great deal more likely that you forgot Him in the clamour of what you think He owes you?

So, love, listen to me: the goodness of the Lord is wider and broader and deeper and realer than the hopes you shelter and the disappointment you nurse. You are not disappointed by God's goodness or His love or His mindfulness of you. You are only disappointed by the timing you had imagined you deserved. Put that away. It is not yet time for these things to emerge, and it may never be. But what do those possible things have to do with the experience of God's goodness? How can your imagined life compare with the heavy weight of the real life He's giving you? 

Let some air flow over your skinned pride and your grazed elbows. And then get to your feet and go running towards the Cross. Because He is not far from you, and never has been. Do you remember on that run passing honeysuckle on a mailbox? Or hearing the birds shiver on their branches, calling out to their friends? Did you watch thunder threaten the horizon, and the wind twist flowers in lazy circles? Do you remember, as your feet pounded the dirt, or the gravel or the pavement, how the air burned your lungs and your heart beat and your head cleared, even if just for an instant? That's the life He gives you.

I would have lost heart, Running, many times, had I not believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. And I do, when I open my eyes wide to look for it. 

Love, always, 


  1. Hilary - that passage was what got me through college. It is still tremendously meaningful to me. Your advice is timely and poignant. I'm definitely in a place where my impatience - and consequent frustration - threatens to upset my balance. Why don't I have this? And that? And God says, "wait with me, my love. enjoy ME right now, learn to receive My gifts, to rejoice in My presence, to fight the invisible waiting fight. You WILL see."
    Thank you, so much, for this post! Thank you for the reminder of God's goodness!

  2. Love this post! Beautifully written and it speaks to so many situations and circumstances my heart is facing these days. Truth, plain and simple. God is so good.


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