25 / by Sarah Schwartz

I.

The night before my 22nd birthday, I retreated to my bedroom in the house I shared with six other college girls, in search of solitude to journal about the things I was grateful for in the year I was 21. At the time, I was using a journal with the word Skywriting scrawled on it's cover, each page made of a different photograph of the sky. I'm not sure what inspired this practice—perhaps it was the deep grief 21 had brought me that was subconsciously spurring me to document the good of that year, a reminder that it hadn't defeated me, as well as a monument of sorts to God's faithfulness, my friend's love, and my own resilience.

Thank you for Matt & Christa. Thank you for my new job. For the ability to go to counseling, for...etc., etc.

And when I was done, I turned to the next blank page, and scribbled across the top in large letters:

For 22.

The name of the game for 21 was survival, was one foot in front of the other, was keep going even though I wanted to dissolve. But there was a part of me still capable (and in desperate need) of dreaming of what could be, and so I wrote out a page and a half of wild, extravagant requests for the year I would be 22.

And for a year I prayed faithfully over that list, with a boldness I had not known before— tracing my fingers each morning over requests for redemption and provision and reconciliation.

II.

I'm turning 25 next month, and I'm planning on welcoming my birthday the way I have for the past three years—making space to appreciate all that was good and true and beautiful in the year past, as well as stretch my faith by believing Jesus was telling the truth when he said that the God who conceived us in love will give us bread, and not stones.

With each new list, I imagine him inviting me,

Sarah, what would you ask for if you weren't afraid?

III.

Each year's list of petitions read like an autobiography of sorts; every request a snapshot of an ache or a relationship or a dream that colored that particular season.

I have seen a handful of my scribbled prayers answered in beautiful and unexpected ways; and there are a few stubborn requests that have had a place on each year's list since I began this practice. When I am tempted to feel silly for continuing to ask for those things, I return to the parable of the persistent widow, and ask to borrow her tenacity and childlike faith that if she just didn't give up, if she just she kept banging on the door, she would be answered.

IV.

This is the rhythm I have been trying to cultivate in my twenties; gratitude coupled with expectancy, present moment wonder as well as faith that better things are to come.

It would be easy, and in many moments, has been easy, to be overwhelmed and discouraged by how messy and fragile and ever changing this season is. If I'm being honest, I haven't cared for these years. They have not been kind, or anything that I have wanted them to be. As my mother would say, these have been years of "character building".

And yet.

And yet, as each year comes to a close, and I sit down to mentally comb through the months in order to make my list, I always find people or places or small unfoldings, like streams in the desert, for which I can only respond with deep, guttural thanks.

These hard years are not without provision.

These hard years will not last forever.

And so I keep praying wild prayers, allowing hope to anchor my soul.

I keep asking, as if I believe God is who he says he is.

I keep asking, as if I were not afraid.

 

the hard season will split you through.
do not worry. you will bleed water. do not worry. this is grief.
your face will fall out and down your skin and there will be scorching.
but do not worry. keep speaking the years from their hiding places.
keep coughing up smoke from all the deaths you have died. keep the rage tender.
because the soft season will come. it will come. loud. ready. gulping. both hands in your chest.
up all night. up all of the nights. to drink all damage into love.

—- therapy | by nayyirah waheed