I often share about my lovely new town and the peaceful view of the river from my front window. I love to walk my dog through the field across the street, lingering along the shore. I stop to greet the goose that has been my friend since the time I moved here. I think God put that goose there just for me, knowing my affinity for a lone goose that lost its lifelong mate and adopted my parents years ago. This lone goose was to me like an acknowledgment hug from God, reminding me that He never forgets that I lost my mate and He is always with me. Along the way, I breathe in to capture the smell of the falling leaves and freshly cut grass on the nearby soccer fields. I enjoy meeting new people along the way. I love to watch the boats roll by, and in the evening I usually tear up with joy and gratitude as I view the sun setting behind the water. Twice I have seen an eagle on its nest. The serenity of God’s creation feeds my soul as I walk and talk with Him by the river. I count on the peace this walk with God brings me each day.
But, oh my…how quickly things can change! You see, last weekend the carnival rolled into town, across the street from my house. Literally, overnight, my view switched from sunsets and riverfronts to Ferris wheels, tilt-a-whirls, and pirate ship rides. Every time I opened my door my olfactory senses no longer processed falling leaves and freshly cut grass but instead confronted smells of foot-long hot dogs, fried marshmallow-covered-dough-filled-sugar-coated everything imaginable, cotton candy, and other undetermined scents. My new view seemed like full-fledged craziness. Lights and sounds continued into the night and then Sunday evening, it was all gone. I was reminded how in the twinkling of an eye, our surroundings can change from serenity to carnival madness and back again. However, even with the carnival’s departure, it’s not yet exactly the same. I notice remnants of craziness. The grass is now mud and the trash and commodes are yet to be collected.
Life is like this. We experience times of calm and then the big trucks come in and seemingly overnight, dump craziness in our proverbial front yards…Not in the forms of Ferris wheels and pirate ships (well, for me it actually was in this form :-)), but more often with illnesses, difficult news, family trials, disappointments, grief, conflicts, and little things like pandemics. We can have a hard time remembering what serenity looks like and face seemingly overwhelming smells of fear and doubt. Whenever the “life carnival” rolls in, I find I must stay grounded in the reality of truth. The beauty of God’s creation is true. God’s provision is real. His concern for me is real. His empathy with me is real. His promise of eternal life is real. His promise of a new heaven and new earth is real. His comfort is real. He never changes, even when my view does. The carnival, though crazy, is temporary. Even though it happens, He holds my hand as I ride the Ferris wheel. I need that since I abhor heights.
He reminds me that the river is still in the same place, it is just a bit hidden by the surrounding commotion. My identity in Christ doesn’t change with changing circumstances. I take “me” with me both to the river and to the carnival, and Jesus walks with me through both. When my identity comes from God, I can stay grounded whether at the river or in the carnival. Though the trash and commodes may linger awhile, the leaves will still fall, the grass will grow through the mud, the river will still flow, and the sun will continue to rise and set. I must simply remember, notice, and keep walking with Him as He guides me. Even when the carnival was in full force, I walked further, beyond the carnival, and eventually passed its craziness. I once again smelled the grass and saw the river. I just had to keep walking.
You may feel like your life is a carnival, where serenity has been replaced by crazy. My life over the last few years has been filled with difficult transitions that have at times “smelled” like stale foot-long hot dogs and left me spinning on tilt-a-whirls. That combination can prove challenging, believe me. However, I can stay grounded by noticing God in everything as I keep on walking past the carnival, visiting the goose, watching the eagle, speaking to passersby, and witnessing the beautiful consistency of the sunset. I stay grounded knowing that His words are true and that He gives me purpose and identity. I am confident that the peaceful river and the crazy carnival can coexist because God is with me through them all. There truly is a secret of being content. His name is Jesus.
Philippians 4:4-13 (NIV2011)
4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!
5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.
6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.
10 I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it.
11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.
12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.
13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.