When Things Fade Away

There’s this song, “Suit and Jacket,” by Judah & the Lion. I heard it first almost two years ago, at a time when life seemed to be going pretty darn well and I felt like I had my stuff together.

It’s a good song, catchy, but the lyrics confused me:

“’Cause everybody I know, everybody I know

Is growing old, is growing old too quickly

And I don’t wanna go

No how am I supposed to slow it down so I can figure out who I am?”

And then the real killer line for me: “And I ain’t trading my dreams for no 401k.”

I scoffed at this. Get your life together, I thought. Figure out who you are. Buck up. Be responsible. Get a 401k for crying out loud.

I felt pretty good about my arrogance. I had a 401k. I didn’t feel like I was growing up too fast. Most people, in fact, thought I was much older than I really was because I acted like it most of the time. (I have no idea why I thought this was a good thing. I’m reaching the age where you definitely don’t want to look older than you are.)

I kept listening to the song and I kept scoffing. I lifted my chin higher in the air. I rolled my eyes.

And then things changed. I moved. I quit one job I loved and another that clearly wasn’t working out but I thought was everything I wanted. The dreams that looked so shiny and brilliant from afar seemed more like cheap rhinestones when I got up close. I felt lost. Routines that once felt completely natural suddenly became very difficult, and things I had felt totally sure of were poisoned with doubt.

I felt like everything was happening too fast, racing toward that moment where I was supposed to care more about my 401k than my wanderlust, more about my career than my passion, where confusion was unacceptable and confidence, however unfounded, was currency.

I always thought getting older meant having a better grip on your life. Feeling more adequate and more prepared, smarter maybe. But the contrary has proved true for me. The more I experience the world the less I understand it, the more inadequate and unprepared I feel.

Sometimes I desperately want things to feel simple. I want the world to be easily digestible. I want to be able to put things into boxes again, like I used to be able to years ago when my perspective was more narrow. But I can’t, and I shouldn’t.

It’s a glorious practice of humility, this process of all the what-I-know becoming what-I-thought-I-knew. It’s scary and necessary and exhausting. It’s casting aside so much of what made me feel safe and staring into the canyon of uncertainty. It’s running out of the little white house I’d built in my mind, where everything felt so clean and simple. It’s climbing over that picket fence and standing in the road, staring ahead with fresh eyes.

But I would rather have it this way. I would rather be molded and shaped into who God wants me to be than stay rigid because it keeps me from getting stretched and changed. I would take the confusion and the chaos over any kind of false, deluded consistency.

In the midst of so much fading away I cling to the important things that stay the same, and I hold them even tighter now: the love and faithfulness of the people close to me, and the things that make me feel most alive — writing, being outside, experiencing new things. The most exciting, beautiful part of this stripping-away season has been how it has reinvigorated my trust in the things that matter most, like weeds pulled to reveal a beautiful, healthy garden.

There is another thing I have grown to expect and it has brought me deep comfort: Psalm 37:4, “Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.”

I used to think this verse was completely confusing and almost irrelevant. No matter how much we devote ourselves to God he might not give us all the desires of our hearts. He won’t get back at that one kid who slighted you ten years ago or lay enough money and time in your lap to travel the world tomorrow or provide the most charming, perfect home. He doesn’t work that way.

But somewhere my understanding of this verse changed, and then this verse changed me. God will not give me the desires of my heart as they are right now, instead as I delight in him he will give me the desires that he wants me to have.

Little by little, as things that once seemed important fall away, the more I delight myself in the Lord the more peaceful I become. The self-motivated desires, the suppositions made of smoke and mirrors, the things I was told by no one important that somehow rooted themselves into my heart all fade. But I take heart that as I delight myself in the Lord he is planting new desires, truth, and vision, things that I can trust. Things I know will not fade away.

Regardless of my circumstances, when I delight myself in God’s truth and promises I have more trust in my own discernment. I have a better perspective on my circumstances. I can trust my own wisdom.

I hope you will open your hands to the ways God might want to change you. It is easier, absolutely, to be stagnant and comfortable, but I am fiercely sure that is not the way we are meant to live. Your circumstances may flash and rage like a terrible storm, but your boat will remain intact as long as you trust in Christ’s providence. I’m certain that delighting in His truth will keep your foundation secure, and while it feels like everything is changing there is One who stays the same yesterday, today, and forever, and though he might mold you in ways that feel painful he will never, ever let you go.

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