In four days I'll be going back to school for my sophomore year. Thus far the first week looks to be remarkably easy--far easier than the horribly homesick first week of freshman year (in fact, I spent my whole first semester dealing with chronic homesickness--it didn't get better until about a month into second semester).
Yet I still find myself experiencing moments of tense anxiety when I think about going back to school. This may sound strange, but I find it hard to believe that God will allow me to be simply happy for a while.
Now, I don't think of God as some kind of Divine Spoilsport who wants me to be miserable, but I do have two reasons to doubt that life will be easy. One, I've spent the last seven months or so feeling like Peter did a few Gospel readings ago--I have to reach out and cling to Jesus just to keep from drowning. In my case there's the added twist that in order to grab Jesus' outstretched hand I have to drop everything else to which I'm clinging and trust that it will not sink irretrievably unless the good Lord wills it. In short, I've gotten rather accustomed to the stormy seas and I'm wondering when the next wave is going to come.
But that's not the main reason. The main reason is that I experience God most closely through suffering--when I let go of everything else and there's nothing in all the world but Him and me.
There is a severe sort of joy in lying thus naked on the bare hand of God. I think one of the reasons we experience spiritual growth as suffering is because we are pained by an excess of joy, just as we can be blinded by an excess of light.
So whenever the blaze of God's splendor subsides into a little hearth-fire which must be tended and fed lest it fade to mere embers, I find myself half anticipating and half dreading the day when it will become, once more, a consuming flame that burns away everything but the bare essentials.
I wonder, though, if this phenomenon is yet another manifestation of my desire to have life look the way I expect it to look. I expect my crosses to look like crosses, not feather-beds. What if embracing God's will sometimes means embracing happiness? What if it means surrendering myself utterly to the blessings which God has put in my life, not holding back because I'm afraid that someday all these things I hold dear will be taken away--that He will ask me to give them up?
But what if He never does? What if, on that day when it truly is just Him and me, the question He asks is not, "Why did you not embrace the crosses you had been given?" but "Why did you not embrace the blessings you had been given?"