Maddie studied in the UK as an International student from the USA. A year after her graduation, she reflects on how it felt to leave a country she called home for 3 years, moving away from friends and embracing messy transitions.
'I have plenty of reasons to like the 4th of July. Last year was particularly fun because two of my best friends were in America with me. We took photos out in the backyard with an American flag, played with sparklers, watched the fireworks once the sun set, and spent time catching fireflies in the backyard later before we got too sleepy.
At the same time, the 4th of July has been a day that’s hosted some tough things. Most recently, it was the day before my friends flew back home to England and my time at uni beside them officially ended.
I wanted to enjoy that last day 100%, but we all knew what tomorrow was bringing. I watched the fireworks sparkle in the night sky in what seemed like such defiant celebration on a day I really didn’t feel like celebrating. While it was technically the perfect end to the past three years, what do you do when you feel like the credits have just rolled on an adventure you didn’t want to be over? I kept looking at the clock and honestly hating that the clock declared the last day was over.
But tomorrow comes. Whether we’ve been on the edge of our seat waiting for it or dragging out the last few minutes of yesterday as long as we can, if God is set on painting another sunrise and giving us another day, it comes. And with it, His Word says, comes joy.
That day, among others, is what confirms in my mind that joy is not something that you feel. It’s something we have to actively choose to receive straight out of His hands and let it become our strength.
'It’s not okay to set that time on a pedestal and claim nothing will ever be as good again.'
I’ve realised I don’t think there will come a day any time soon when I don’t grieve for the days we could be in the same house or the same city (or even the same continent). But I’ve also realised it’s not okay to set that time on a pedestal and claim nothing will ever be as good again.
I don’t believe God is in the business of repeating what He has already done in the exact same way. While His character is unchanging, His methods are as creative and individual as you and I. So, the moment we highlight the way He chose to do those things previously and insist it be the formula for our joy, we’ve just put God in a box. A very pleasant box to us perhaps, but a box all the same.
So this year, I’m remembering how God showed up that day, and each day since. Bittersweet, I’m learning, is kind of beautiful in its own way. But hiding it away inside rather than telling Him about it is actively choosing to hold His comfort at arm’s length rather than be embraced by it.
The previous three years were so fun. So challenging. So out-of-my-comfort-bubble. So life-giving, confidence-building, and ultimately life-changing. However, to think that time could in any way exhaust the Lord’s ideas for my future days is an insult to His character and creativity. Saying that “nothing will be as good again” is actually insisting that He is incapable of repeating that kind of joy.
Whatever the future holds for you, whether you have a plan or not, whether uni was the best time or the most challenging of seasons, I hope that in change that is coming, you embrace the comfort that is waiting.
Because when you do, He who knows all things will give you His joy. It won’t take the bitter parts away, but it will help you be thankful for the sweetness of the things you cherish, and that will make you stronger than you’ve ever been before.'
- Maddie Hagan