Return to Addison’s Walk: Part Two

IMG-7725A few months ago, I wrote the first part of a two-part post about my experience returning to Addison’s Walk at Magdalen College, Oxford this past March. Namely, I wrote about one of the lessons God taught me while I was there, through a story. You will likely want to read that post before this one, because they are definitely connected!

You may wonder why I went three months before writing this post (and, why I wrote several unrelated posts in between). It is not because I forgot! On the contrary, I have been processing the March trip more fully and making connections between other lessons that God has been teaching me. So, I now feel prepared to write this post, after waiting and praying these past few months.

As I mentioned in my previous post, Addison’s Walk is a place that has been significant in my walk with God over the past five years. And, I believe the poem that hangs on the gate within the walk, “What The Bird Said Early in the Year”, is prophetic for me–meaning, God has used it to speak to me, encourage me, and teach me. I have posted the text of this poem on this blog before (in my initial post on Addison’s Walk), but I’d like to post it again here:

I heard in Addison’s Walk a bird sing clear:
This year the summer will come true. This year. This year.

Winds will not strip the blossom from the apple trees
This year, nor want of rain destroy the peas.

This year time’s nature will no more defeat you,
Nor all the promised moments in their passing cheat you.

This time they will not lead you round and back
To Autumn, one year older, by the well-worn track.

This year, this year, as all these flowers foretell,
We shall escape the circle and undo the spell.

Often deceived, yet open once again your heart,
Quick, quick, quick, quick!—the gates are drawn apart.

The very first time I read this poem was during my time studying abroad in the UK in 2013. At that time, it was incredibly encouraging to me, and God spoke to me through it. He told me that I needed to “open once again my heart”, and to not lose faith that summer was coming. During that time, I was struggling with depression pretty heavily, and this experience at Addison’s Walk was the beginning of moving out of it, and into God’s plan for my life.

At the last One Year Adventure Novel Winter Workshop (you can read about it here), I read this poem at the end of Poetry Night, on the 1st of January–the very beginning of 2018. At the time, I also knew that I would soon be making my return to Addison’s Walk that March. And, I knew that God had more to tell me through this poem. I was certain that all of these things–being able to read this poem on the first day of 2018, making my return to Addison’s Walk in 2018, and other verses of Scripture and songs that God kept throwing at me–meant that something huge and significant was going to happen this year. This year, I told myself. “This year, as all these flowers foretell, we shall escape the circle and undo the spell.” And so, I journeyed into Addison’s Walk expectant of what God might do, and ready for what He might teach me.

In my last post, I wrote about this first lesson God taught me within Addison’s Walk–He taught me the importance of following Him, even when his requests seem unreasonable or impossible. Even if following Him does not result in what I expect–in fact, even if it results in failure, rejection, or disappointment–it is still entirely worth it. While at Addison’s Walk, I was given specific direction in several areas of my life; and, after learning this lesson, I knew that I had to listen to Him and follow Him in these areas.

When I returned home, I went to work right away on each of these things–I was emboldened by my experience at Addison’s Walk, and ready to follow wherever God led. Yet, as I strove to follow God’s direction–make some changes to my lifestyle, say specific things to specific people, begin some new creative ventures–many of these things did not proceed as I’d hoped. Yet, thinking back on my experience at Addison’s Walk, I knew that following God was the only real choice I had. I much preferred disappointment and failure to knowing that I had heard His voice and not followed.

In my last post, I mentioned that there were two primary lessons I learned during my return to Addison’s Walk. However, one of these lessons was perhaps not fully a lesson–it was more of a specific lyric from a song that I felt God was telling me to focus on. This lyric is from All Sons & Daughters’ song “Rest in You”, and it goes:

“You cannot change,
Yet You change everything.”

Very simple, but profound. He is always the same, unchanging in His love for us–yet, He changes everything. He brings hope, life, light, and joy into our lives. And, He uses our experiences and circumstances to change us, to bring us into His plan and make us the people we were always created to be. This is what the lyric means, at least to me.

I mentioned in the previous post that:

“Sometimes, the reason for Him directing us in a specific way doesn’t make sense until later–and, sometimes, we never understand the reason. I believe that sometimes, He leads and directs us in certain ways simply because He, as the perfect Father, knows exactly what we need to experience in order to grow closer to Him.”

I went into Addison’s Walk this past March expecting God to start something new and significant in my life. He gave me direction while I was there, and I expected that following Him in these ways would have specific results. But this is where I was wrong. I was not wrong that God wanted to start something new in my life, because He did start something new. He changed me through the experience of listening to Him, following Him, and still choosing to trust Him even when things did not proceed as I expected. He does not change–but he changes everything. And assuredly, He has changed me this year in so many ways.

Yet, it appears that God is still not finished teaching me in 2018 (of course not!). I still believe He has more life-changing lessons for me to learn. I still believe that I am to be “quick, quick, quick, quick!”, living in urgency to follow Him each and every day, because “the gates are drawn apart”. I still believe that “the summer will come true. This year. This year.” What has changed, is that I no longer expect anything. I have zero specific expectations, yet I have an abundant amount of hope. I trust that God is doing and will do amazing things (this year, and beyond), but I also know that they will likely not go the way I expect them to. Which I am alright with, even thrilled; all the best things in my life have come when I did not expect them, and in ways I did not expect. God’s plans are always so much better than my own!

I am ending this post with another quote, from Isaiah–one that God surprised me with a few days ago, when I saw it on our library whiteboard at MNU. I believe it is prophetic, too–and though I don’t know what specifically He is doing, I trust that it will be abundantly good.

“For I am about to do something new.
See, I have already begun!
Do you not see it?
I will make a pathway in the wilderness.
I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.
~ Isaiah 43:19

Ultimately, what I learned through my return to Addison’s Walk this past March is this–that I want my walk (i.e. Addison’s walk) to be one of following Christ with boldness and urgency, and then trusting Him with the results; trusting Him to change me through the process. My walk is with Jesus, and I wouldn’t want it any other way.

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