“Hunter, this might sound weird, can you wake me up at, like, 6:15?”
“I think it’s past 6:13.”
You know your relationship with your roommate is going well when you have half-awake conversations first thing in the morning. My alarm was set for seven this morning (on a Saturday, I know), but I hadn’t been able to get more than forty-five minutes of sleep. I just couldn’t quiet my mind. I was able to sleep peacefully only after, around 5:30 or so, I wrote a scene or two for a novel I’m working on and just talked to God for a while. Knowing He’s there, remembering His influence, remembering that, oh yeah, I don’t have to fight my thoughts and my doubtful feelings alone made everything fall back into place.
I went and took a shower, trying to wake myself up. I kept talking to God, keeping my head in the right place for as long as I could without succumbing to my frustrations. I didn’t even have time to do my devotions, or the focus. So as I walked to Atlantic Ave. to meet up with Edward before going to see Leah, underneath the light drizzle of the morning, underneath the cloud cover of my brain, I prayed. I admired the beauty of The City, allowed myself to feel excited about going home, but also about staying here for the next three years. I stopped at the farmer’s market to grab breakfast, even though I didn’t feel like eating anything. I tucked my purchase of blueberry banana muffins into my purse and continued walking.
We were to meet at Target, but something got shifted in our communication, so I walked back two or three blocks to Fulton Street and went down into the subway to wait. We were going to be late meeting up with Leah and her team from BBC. We were going to miss the opportunity to help with the outreach. I was getting very angry and very frustrated, not with anyone, just with the situation. I pulled out my iPod and listened to Jars of Clay, and while I began to read Knowing God by J.I. Packer, my heart was quieted.
God: “Hunter, you need to calm down. How many times have you been in situations like this and I’ve worked everything out in ways you hadn’t expected? Who do you think I am?”
Me: “Why can’t things just work out the first time? Smoothly?”
God: “Because then how would you grow?”
Me: “Well, maybe I just don’t want to grow this morning.”
But even as the thought passed through my head, I knew it wasn’t true. I loved growing in my relationship with God, even in the small moments, the small, ridiculous problems of my everyday life. I loved getting the opportunity to see Him work things out when I had no control over the situation. I loved being in awkward, frustrating situations because it means God’s going to show up (I mean, He’s always there to begin with) and do something awesome. So why was I frustrated?
After that, my mind was silent and I was able to wait for Edward patiently, I was able to push my tiredness away and trust that God was going to give me the strength to get through the day and enjoy it. The train came and I joined Edward in the front car. I slept nearly the entire train ride up to Queens until we had to transfer, and while I was drifting in and out of sleep, wearing sunglasses to keep the light from bothering me, I continued to thank God for Edward, for the day, for the fact that I was going to see Leah, for life, and for the fact that I would have time in the afternoon to take a very, very, very long and much needed nap.
We transferred trains and I was eating one of the muffins. On the next train, three Mexican men came on and began playing Mariachi music. It was so uplifting and exciting 😀
After transferring a second time, we stepped off the train onto Astoria Blvd. The sun had come out and the air was warmer. When I went to the spot I thought the group would be at, they were nowhere to be seen. Thankfully, God gave me patience and understanding and perspective, and I was able to calmly call Leah and ask her where they all were. It was such a blessing to hear her voice!
She gave us directions and Edward and I set off. I tied my hair back and my sweatshirt around my waist, because I knew we were going for a long walk (they had moved the group to a park several blocks away) and entertaining the possibility of getting incredibly lost, and I was excited for God to be glorified, even in this. I couldn’t help but smile as I thought about how God can use the little things.
As we walked, I became more energized and excited and the pep returned to my step. We found the park easily, going in the wrong direction for half a block and then going the right way. Leah greeted me with a big hug and I was able to meet the unfamiliar members of her group as well as introduce Edward to them. Both of us adapted very quickly and were soon swept up into conversation and genuine excitement.
We played soccer, talked to the men and women at the park, did crafts with the kids that were there, and had really wonderful discussions. The frustrations of the morning, and even the tiredness, had evaporated as I watched God be glorified through my brothers and sisters. I just felt so blessed that, even though Leah and I are both away from home, God still orchestrated this opportunity (twice now) for us to fellowship, even though we’re farther away from each other than if both of us were home. She was my piece of home away from home.
Edward and I left the group around 1:30 in the afternoon. We went and grabbed lunch at Subway, and Edward very kindly paid for my lunch. After eating, we hopped on the subway (the other subway, not the restaurant…it would be funny if the subway carts were painted to look like submarine sandwiches…just saying) and headed back home. Edward walked me from the train station, and because it was so beautiful outside, we sat and talked on the lawn for a while as people came and went, as the weather changed. We had a really great conversation about the distinction between secular things and sacred things. We talked about the day, about God, about God’s will.
When our conversation finished, I felt even more blessed by God, blessed that I have such wonderful friends, not just Edward, but everyone. Rebecca is encouraging whenever she introduces me as “The next number one New York Times bestselling author.” Jenny and I share our love of words and of playing with words, and our senses of humor are similar. Grace, Heidi, Rosy, Precilla, Antoinette, Adham, Sam, Maria, Duston, and everyone else, while they’re obviously human and obviously flawed, are such a safe place for me.
I returned to my dorm and Bree was there. The moment I walked in, I dropped my bag and my jacket on the floor and jumped into my bed, shoes and all. I tried to take a nap, but then I started talking to her about my day. I tried to take a nap again, but then my mom skyped me (which I’m not complaining about, I just thought it was funny). I tried to take a nap the third time, but had something else I needed to take care of. I was laughing pretty hard by this point.
Eventually I did end up falling asleep, and nearly four hours later I woke up to see 9:30 blinking on the microwave through the darkness. At first I thought it was 9:30 in the morning, and my brain became disoriented and I suddenly became worried about being late for church. But then I realized it was still Saturday.
So, today was a little…complicated. But there was no missing the wonder of it all. God took a situation that could’ve been very bad (my temper, my impatience, my frustration) and turned it into something amazing. There’s no way I would’ve had the energy to enjoy any of it without Him.
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are Mine.”
—Isaiah 43:1, ESV