yes and no

One recent evening my wife and I were driving in northwest Denver. We turned onto an east-west street just as the sun set behind the mountains. My only remark was that it was different from any other sunset I had experienced. It took a moment, but I realized that I had rarely, if ever, seen a sunset over a jagged skyline. I also realized that for the next few years, almost all of my sunsets would be similar. There would be no flat horizon, no sun setting over the marshlands and beaches of the east coast, everything would be different.

Yesterday, I sat in my professor’s office and handed over two paragraphs that described the paper I wanted to write for his class. Over the next thirty minutes we discussed the topic and talked about the words I used to describe this topic. I will be the first to admit that I love to read; I love the knowledge and wisdom contained in the pages of books and novels. I also realized how far behind I felt in a subject I thought I knew.

My two paragraphs blossomed into a page full of notes and corrections with arrows pointing willy-nilly connecting word to phrase to author as I sought to keep my head above water. The subject is a good one, and the ideas will contribute to the field in the long run, but the run will be long. Along with the four or so hundred pages a week I read, articles and books have been added to the list in order to catch up. This is a long way from sitting in my office in Richmond, Virginia, pounding on the keyboard, editing and creating a sermon or a bible study.

I realize today, these new things signify the end of some older things. With every “yes” there is a corresponding “no” that must be examined, must be grieved before the “yes” can be fully experienced. This is a lesson I learned a while ago, but never fully understood until this day. I am not turning away from where I came, nor am I forgetting my past. I am merely attempting to own up to my responsibilities. I said “yes” to the life I now lead and must attend to it fully; I said “yes” to maintaining friendships with people I care about in Virginia and I must also attend to that. I said “no” to living close to friends and family and must grieve the loss I feel. I said “no” to flat horizons and grieve the comfort they have given me all my life. But through this grief I can celebrate what is before me and look upon each new day and the choices I will get to make.

When we forget or choose to ignore the things we need to grieve, we choose not to fully greet the present and future. When I was a child I used to draw sunsets. Every single one that I can remember pictured the sun setting between two mountains. My ideal sunset is the one that I can enjoy here in Denver. However, if I am always lamenting the sunsets of Virginia or South Carolina or Florida or Georgia I will never be able to fully grasp the beauty that sets before each day here. I have the opportunity to enjoy my ideal, but if I am lost to what used to be, I will miss the very things I see. So, I grieve for the opportunities that I will miss, not being with those I love and care for, so that someday I might celebrate the new life that is before me.

I would caution those who are finding their way in this world, those whose footing has been shaken, whose journey seems shrouded, whose pathway has disappeared. I would caution you to grieve for what you lose when you make a choice or take a step. This doesn’t mean that you lie weeping in a heap on the floor, just that you recognize the decisions you make or choose not to make. It isn’t easy, but no one ever said that living an examined life was…



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