Life with Semicolons

As modern people, we hate to wait. We become anxious when we have to wait, asked to be patient, or not knowing what is going on. When we want something, we want them quick; or even if we have to wait, we want the waiting period to be short. On top of that, we want to have control over our lives, for it is the innate and natural human desire to be in the know. Therefore, when trials and hardships come, we want to eject or let go of what is hurting us right away. We want the bad things to end as quickly as possible, yet most of our life is filled with many transitionary or waiting periods. We are anxious when those are present, yet (hindsight) they were important times of growth and maturation for many of us. I often call these opportunities our “semicolon” periods. They are often the times in life that made us uncomfortable because we want them to end; ironically speaking, they are needed, constantly appearing and prominent in our very own life journey.

According to many dictionaries, a semicolon is a punctuation mark that indicates a pause between two main clauses, more significant or pronounced than a mere comma. It is the necessary link that unites and transitions between two prominent matters, for without it, things would not find the necessary continuity between previous and after, past and future. Semicolon periods are different things at different times for different people; but in Christian spirituality, these could be periods of the Cross or dark nights of the soul. One often felt left behind, forgotten, tempted beyond what he or she could endure, given too much to handle, smitten by God, or another form of logical reasoning. Doubts and despair often kick in and make us think that we are alone and abandoned, the battle is too much and not worth enduring, or that life is not worth living. It makes us so uncomfortable to be in the pause itself! We so hate to not knowing or in control of the situation. Nevertheless, semicolons are real and they occur often.

Contrary to what we would like to have or believe life to be, it is not simply a monotonous, boring, and long period of many same or typical set of things. It is often filled with numerous transitions and stages. Nonetheless, the semicolon reminds us that whatever going on is not the end. It is simply the waiting period, an opportunity to grow, to persevere with tenacity, to be faithful, and to abide with God. We, as Christians, know Who is in control and where our “period” will be if we persevere and keep our eyes on the final goal — even in the midst of many transitions. We just have to remember that we should not give up or lose heart when we are in the (many) semicolon periods of life. It is important for us, then, to realize and understand how to ground ourselves, anchor our hope, and stay strong in the pause, waiting, or transitory periods of maturation and growth.

In one of his writings to the people of faith, the Prophet Isaiah wrote:

“On this mountain the LORD of hosts
will provide for all peoples
A feast of rich food and choice wines,
juicy, rich food and pure, choice wines.
On this mountain he will destroy
the veil that veils all peoples,
The web that is woven over all nations;
he will destroy death forever.
The Lord GOD will wipe away
the tears from all faces;
The reproach of his people he will remove
from the whole earth; for the LORD has spoken.

On that day it will be said:
‘Behold our God, to whom we looked to save us!
This is the LORD for whom we looked;
let us rejoice and be glad that he has saved us!’
For the hand of the LORD will rest on this mountain.” (25:6-10)

Even though when we first glanced at this reading, it seems to be a very normal, hope-filled one. However, when we look at the historical significance of it, we know that dangers were glooming at all sides. The Assyrian threats were real, and the possibility of exile was very likely, yet he prophesized something full of hope.

Throughout the Sacred Scriptures, even in writings of lamentation, the human authors remind us that trials, sufferings, hardships, ups and downs of life are not the end all in all. They are not periods, they are simply semicolons. Therefore, it is important to know and fix our eyes on the final prize and goal of who we are and where we are going, eternal life with the One who created us out of love for love. We are called to persevere, lift up our hearts in prayer, and abide with God in the trials and hardships, waiting or transitory periods of life. We can be sure that He will not permit anything more than what we can handle. Even though we might think at times that whatever we are going through now is too much to handle, the saints remind us that He uses all things for our good as to stretch our hearts through endurance and character through perseverance.

Often times, we might ask in our trials and sufferings, “Where is God when I needed Him the most? Why is He not saving me from this?” Perhaps the answer is not so obvious and likened by us because He is actually in the storm with us! It is so easy to want rainbow-like and nicely-colored life, but the rainbow cannot exist without the storm nor life without the rain. Those things come after the storms themselves, therefore, it is important that we wait, persevere, and endure in hope so that we can be given and have what is necessary to grow. We might be severely battered and hurt, but the present trials and storms are not the end all in all. No matter what, we cannot stop praying and lifting up our hearts to God! He listens and will give us the grace needed to persevere, even at times when we thought we do not know how to endure what is going on. We have to believe that, in His divine will and wisdom, He providentially permits scattered storms throughout our life so that our fields will yield the needed harvest. While some might be longer than others, we all need to learn to strengthen ourselves, anchor our hope, and ground ourselves in His love when despairs, doubts, and hardships arise.

All things will pass but His love endures forever. Therefore, it is important to not lose heart just yet! We are called to strengthen our commitment, reflect upon ways to deepen our mission, and better form our character, as to mature and grow in His love. While it is easy to only worry about ourselves when we are in survival mode, we are reminded that we are not alone nor are we the only ones suffering. Life is not just about you and me! Our faith is not just for ourselves, for we are gathered together as the Church to journey and care for one another along the way. No matter what, we cannot lose our focus on what truly makes us humans by how we care, empathize, and practice compassion. Without empathy, we become destructive and defensive as we lose our humanity and our faith in the loving God who loves us more than we know! In the hardest of time, we are not alone and are called to seek help and assist one another along the way, so that through our love for one another, we can make present and seek the presence of His loving grace in each other. The hardest thing to remember in the midst of trials and hardships is that we are still the faces of the Lord by how we live our lives, practice empathy, and compassion.

Life is full of transitions, waitings, trials, sufferings, and hardships, but they are never the end all in all! In my own personal faith journey, there have always been semicolon periods. While some were longer than others, my God has never abandoned me. He stood by me in the storms and helped me to carry the crosses given. He will never abandon you! Therefore, let us learn to wait and grow well in our own life’s semicolon periods so that we can mature well in our faith, hope, and love for Him and for one another.

May the Lord be with you.