Outward and Upward

Tree-Rings“Life is cumulative!”
That’s what my business law professor used to say when we asked if the upcoming test material would be cumulative. The class would outwardly laugh and inwardly groan and somehow, four years later his words are still planted firmly in my memory.

Life doesn’t travel all straight and linear like a line across a page—it’s outward like ripples on the surface of a pond. No. More substantial than that. Like rings on a tree trunk, it builds on itself.

We don’t get over our heartaches or move on from our successes and failures. We just grow around them. We make room for our hearts to contain them.

I’ve been thinking about what’s next, exploring the possibility of seminary. And as I’m applying, I’m realizing how quickly my twenties are slipping past me. By the time I graduate with my MDiv I’ll be 28 or 29 years old! I look around me at my friends who all went to grad school and have already graduated. I’ve got a ways to go until I catch up with them.

And for a fleeting moment the thought skitters across my brain like a spider: Did I make the right decision to go to South America? Look how far back it has set me. Look how I still hurt for what I saw and experienced there.

But what a betrayal of all the work the Lord did and is still doing in me through that time! I heard story after story–good, bad, and ugly–of the church’s impact in peoples’ lives, teaching me the value of listening. I came face to face with spiritual and physical poverty. I fell in love for the first time. I felt isolation and betrayal, but also comfort, hope, and encouragement from American and Argentinian alike. And yeah, even though it ended, I still had a ton of fun. In truth I wouldn’t even be embarking on the seminary journey were it not for all the joy and pain and blessed life experience that happened in that place.

Somebody squash that spider. It’s thoughts like these “if only’s” that spoil contentment, sow seeds of bitterness, and prevent us from truly gleaning all that God would have us learn from the season that He purposefully allowed us to walk through.

Friends, as we grow outward and upward, let each new season of our lives be cumulative! Let us not live in the past–confine ourselves to our inner rings, but neither should we forget the lessons that it taught us. Each season was chosen for us by the Creator and strengthens our core for the one that lies ahead: The taller the tree, the bigger the base needed to support it. Let Him strengthen you!

The righteous flourish like the palm tree
    and grow like a cedar in Lebanon.
 They are planted in the house of the Lord;
    they flourish in the courts of our God.
 They still bear fruit in old age;
    they are ever full of sap and green,
 to declare that the Lord is upright;
    he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him.

Psalm 92:12-15


3 thoughts on “Outward and Upward

  1. Kelsey girl, you are wise beyond your years. Who says what you “should” be doing in your late twenties? Who decides that? You and God alone, girl. Don’t look around. Look up only and you will find your path. I can totally see you in seminary. When will come visit me in Columbia so we can catch up?


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