Such Sweet Sorrow

“When I was 6 years old, I had an ant farm. After a few months, I opened the top, left it outside. The next day, the farm was empty, all the ants were gone. But they’d left behind these tunnels, all these empty space they’d been living in, working in for months. I remember staring at this empty ant farm, noticing one last ant still inside, still moving little grains of sand. I watched him for a while until he began making his way through the maze of tunnels and finally climbing out the top. Anyway, once he was outside on the grass, he just stopped – it was like he was trying to decide which way to go. But then, finally, off he went.”

(from the season 1 finale of Felicity)

Graduation was on Saturday and now all the girls are gone. As I started saying goodbye to people and watching them carry boxes out to their cars and give tearful hugs to their friends, I started getting sad. There was so much activity leading up to graduation and then, all of a sudden, they were gone. I was left with a sharp pain in my chest, a melancholy that swept over me unexpectedly. It hit me when I gave a huge hug to one of my senior girls I had gotten particularly close to – I wasn’t ready to say goodbye. Not long after she left, I met up with her and her sister (who I adore as well) for coffee. I needed the closure and a little longer of a goodbye.

I guess up until Saturday, I didn’t realize how attached I became to the girls here. All during the school year, I would jet out of town as soon as I got the chance and towards the end I spent a lot of time alone in my room. It was like I got overstimulated or just took for granted that they’d always be here when I got back. But on Saturday, I didn’t want to leave. I wanted to stay at school and soak up the last drops of their presence. As I walked around and looked in their rooms, I thought of how much their lives filled those spaces this year. They lived and breathed, laughed and loved, yelled and cried in those rooms. And now, all is quiet and I’m left with a sense of bittersweet loss over their absence.

I know that most of them will be back in the fall, and I know it will be great with new adventures and memories, but nothing will be like this year. It was this year that I fell in love with this school and with all the girls around me. They became a part of my world just as much as I became a part of theirs. I got to keep them company when they were homesick, watch movies and eat pizza on Friday nights, drive around town singing to Justin Beiber at the top of our lungs, giggle as we scarfed down huge meals at IHOP. They got to see the best and worst of me, which kept me running back to Jesus for strength and wisdom. I look around now and remember the girls with fondness and love.

I realized something cool the other day. You know, at the beginning of the year I was embarrassed to tell people I lived at a boarding school with high school girls. I mean, what kind of a grown up does that? I tried to encourage myself by thinking I was like Anne Shirley (Anne of Green Gables/Avonlea), but at times I was nervous about waking up one day and being a single old woman still living here. But somewhere along the way, I fell in love and all of my insecurities melted away. Once I admitted that I really liked being here, it didn’t matter to me what people thought. The truth is, I do miss being in a house with girls my age and I hope I get married someday and have a home, but right now, this is exactly where I am meant to be. It’s breathtaking to have the feeling of being exactly where God wants you to be and living in the peace and joy of that truth. And the cool thing I realized is this – I do think God wanted me here to minister to these girls, but I think He just knew that I’d love it. He created me with a capacity to love and feel passionately and find life in relationships. I cannot express the contentment this brings me. I picture God with a huge smile on His face saying, “I knew you’d love this…this is all for you.” He is beautiful.

So not only did I fall in love with the girls and (some parts of) the school, but I fell more in love with Jesus too. I’ve learned that He constantly calls us out of ourselves and into places that seem ridiculous, but usually end up being perfect for us. He’s a sneaky fellow…but after this year, I can’t help but trust Him with wild abandon. His ideas are far better than mine and He knows me intimately. Not only does He know what things will challenge me and fit me to a tea, but also the things that I will absolutely love. And it turns out that all of those things are intertwined. We love the experience and places that make us feel the most alive – and we feel most alive when we are doing what we love.

I’ve chosen to stay here another year and I don’t know where I’ll go after that. But I’m not worried because He’ll show me. He’s already preparing the way.

Don’t ask yourself what the world needs, ask yourself what makes you come alive and go do that, because what the world needs is more people who have come alive.

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