The photo above was taken from a friend I met on the island of Thassos, Greece. His name is Alexandru, and he sent it to me on September 11th.
Now, for all of us Americans, September 11th has a huge significance in memory of what was lost that day, but this year was especially tragic for me because on September 10th, the day before, Thassos--the island where I lived for three months--caught on fire.
Now, this wasn't just a small contained incident; it covered the whole island. There were three independently ignited areas, and this island, known for its plentiful forests, turned into a massive conflagration. The winds spread the fire, and because of the severe drought that preceded it, the flames remained alive for days.
I was an absolute wreck. The area where I lived, that I knew so well, was one of the areas most devastated by fire. In a saving act of grace, the hotel/restaurant where I spent every day was spared from fire at the last minute, when two helicopters dropped water on it moments before destruction, sparing everything but the land (and an iconic boat) surrounding it. And most importantly, everyone survived without harm.
I tell that story because this picture came in the midst of my panic. I was glued to social media and my phone, texting everyone I knew in Greece, waiting for updates to appear online. And Alexandru, who is not a native of Thassos but a frequent visitor, had been there on September 11th, so he sent several pictures from the ferry. He specifically pointed this one out, saying, "The angel in the sky was a great sign of hope."
Sometimes we need signs from above, in the midst of our anxieties and sadness and trials, to remind us that there is hope.
Today was not nearly so traumatic as that September day, but I did wake up feeling mentally, physically, and spiritually drained. I've been endeavoring to seek God, and clarity, and a breakthrough, and I've been making so many changes over the last week and a half to make space for this, and today I just felt like it wasn't working. I was failing. I was doing something wrong. What if, at the end of this, all my efforts were a waste?
Thankfully, I shared my concern with a friend, a person in the same "seeking" boat as me, and she called me right away. She said two things:
1. You're not alone. She has struggled with these thoughts as well.
2. Sometimes the questions we want answers to are not the ones God is answering. Has he been working in ways that maybe I'm overlooking?
That was the first helpful insight I received that caused a shift in my perspective.
Moments after that, another friend texted me who's also involved with this seeking journey, and he wrote just to see how I was doing. I laid it alllllll out for him. (A normal person might be hoping for an "I'm fine, how are you?" but that's not what he received.)
He responded with some questions that made me stop and think, Wow.
1. Is there a wrong way to seek God?
2. Are you holding God to your timetable?
3. What if something happens now that leads to something big later? Will you trace it back?
I thought, I suppose there isn't. Yes I am. And wow, that's definitely probable.
And then, the real kicker, shortly after this another friend sent out a group email that included a website specific to what we're endeavoring to do, and the author said to NOT JUDGE RESULTS PREMATURELY. There was a whole bulleted list of reasons why, and it was as if this woman had written the article specifically for me. I was immediately humbled, and overwhelmed with gratitude, to receive such encouragement.
I guess you could say it was my angel of light shining in the clouds, reminding me that I am not alone; this is not the end; to keep going--there is yet hope.