I ran to the top of the slope and stood on the edge of the cornfield to catch the final moments of the sunset. It was a magnet of incomparable power and beauty, luring me in, a trespasser on someone’s farm property, unable to resist the pull. There was scant color in the sky, except for the deeply orange glow of the flaming orb. The clouds seemed to sense the intimacy between the sun and me, and stood discreetly shrouded in grey. The descent seemed painfully slow. Usually the languishing lamp hangs in the sky until a certain point and then drops rapidly, as though trying to hasten an awkward good-bye.
This time was different. The blazing sphere steadied itself, as though the horizon had thickened to a sludge that checked its progress. It came to a standstill and spread its gentle glow upon me, as I stood entranced. Then…ever so slowly, it melted into the horizon, like butter oozing onto the resting cornfield. And with the light’s demise, a long-held dream had also come to an end, like so many times before—a dream that must now be put to rest, along with all the others clothed in the darkness of night.
Pain of Loss
Letting go of hopes and dreams is painful. In this life, it is an almost-daily process. In our late teens and early twenties, we gather up hopeful dreams and desires like shells from the beach. We display and occasionally inventory our collection, confidently anticipating wonderful things to come. As we age, encountering the realities of life, growing in holiness and wisdom, we let go of some of those fancies. Sometimes, they’re ripped from our hands by gale force winds. Other yearnings drift slowly away over the years. However it is that they slip from our grasp, the realization of loss must be reckoned with.
As I stood there in that field, a wary witness to the sun’s withdrawal, I was grappling with some news that I had just received, news that been hinted at many times over the past few years, but was now definitively declared. The death of hope was burning in my chest, and what I yearned for in my loss was an unobstructed view of the heavens. Often, in moments of doubt and pain, I turn to the sky for peace and encouragement. There’s something about the “wide blue yonder” that draws my sight and soul heavenward and softens my distress.
What Did I Need to Hear?
Living in the city restricts my view of the horizon, but luckily that evening I was in the country. Suddenly I hungered for a breathtaking sunset, and it came to me (with a little hustling on my part to secure a clear view of the horizon). I was surprised by the patience and intimacy that the sun displayed. Why did it tarry there with me for so long, what was it trying to say, and what did I need to hear? In the approaching twilight, as the last vestiges of radiance slipped away, the light in the sky became for me “The Son,” ever watchful, ever waiting to fall within my line of sight.
What was he saying, there on that country hillside? Had he purposely chosen that day to abide there with me in my deep sense of loss? With prayer and reflection, these are the words of wisdom I collected from that intimate encounter:
“Dreams will come and go in this earthly life, it’s a given. The world around you encourages the building up of desires that are not fulfilling, not in line with the life to which you are called. I don’t discount the pain of your lost dreams. These losses cause heartache, anxiety, and fear. I watch them crush your spirit and bring you to your knees. Yes, it pains me, but this is precisely where I need you to be—on your knees, your heart focused on me, ready to receive what I long to give. I have unspeakable riches to bestow upon you, not the least of which is a love so pure and deep that you will hunger for nothing else, once you have given yourself completely to it. All of your desires are fulfilled in me, if only you allow yourself to depend on me, alone. The world does not grasp these Truths, the world will say that you are adrift, but truly, it is the other way around. Let go of the world, let go of frivolous, earthly aspirations, and turn toward the spiritual and eternal. I will take care of all other things in your life.”
These words were hard to swallow, for a problem-solving, leader personality like me. As I choked them down, I thought about how good I’ve been at making things happen, and how hard it is for me to admit “defeat.” The next morning, as the sun was returning to me once again in the eastern sky, I embraced the cyclic resurrection of life-giving light. As I turned to the daily scripture readings, new shells were coming to rest upon some distant shore, left there by the morning tide. The liturgical readings of the day, I suddenly realized, were my morning “walk on the beach.” I strolled the passages of God’s Word, searching carefully for the most complete and beautiful specimens, discerning to bring my hopes and dreams in line with my Creator. On that day, I found these gems, the words of Christ himself, for the picking: “I have told you this so that you might have peace in me. In the world you have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world.” (John 16:33).
With this timely postscript from my Savior, the sunset message is going down a little easier. It could take a few weeks, or maybe months, to recover from the sense of loss, but I know now that I can do it. As the tide ebbs and treasures gather on the shore, I wait with open hands, Lord, ready to receive what you have to give.