After graduation, I traveled across the country and to eastern Europe. Journeying from Los Angeles to Chicago, and then from New York to Serbia, Montenegro and Croatia, I experienced plenty of eye-opening cultural differences: from interpretations of Christianity and styles of parochial architecture to the assortment of expletives used on interminable museum ticket lines. I also learned quickly that spending a month in the Balkans without a basic understanding of the native language is a surefire path to humility for any American tourist.
Somehow every night I found myself blessed with a view of the sunset. In California, it was on a near-deserted Malibu beach, scattered with a handful of bodysuit-clad surfers who also peered in wonder at the orange marmalade-colored sky, framed by nearby cliffs. In Croatia, I watched, with other passengers on our departing tour bus, as beams of sunlight were absorbed into the green crystal-dotted waters of the port city of Dubrovnik.
Despite the lack of traditional American comfortsthe English language, reliable water pressure, Katie Couricthe flow of day into evening was a constant reminder for me of the divine energy behind the onset of every twilight, from Belgrade to Calvary. For indeed God appointed the moon for seasons. The sun knows when to set (Ps 104:19).
Still, doubts about finding a calling in life followed me from taxi to plane, restaurant to hotel, country to country. Often, when I was alone, the sunset was the only reminder of God’s divine presence.
Now back in New York City undertaking a job hunt, my doubt has somehow been mysteriously replaced with a faith that I cannot begin to understand. The awkwardness of phone calls to former employers hasn’t relented, nor have the hourslong treasure hunts with blackened fingers through newspaper classifieds. But the worries that hovered above my shoulder like a pleading ghost have somehow faded. And I, who have been helpless in dissuading the ghost, am left to ponder its absence.
I spent a lot of time in college commuting to Manhattan in the evenings from Fordham’s Bronx campus by Metro-North train. I remember the way the late sunlight fell across Harlem, shadowing those who stood in front of buildings and blinding my eyes as I was whisked to midtown. I remember the way many people who sat in my train car were oblivious to the day’s close, to the warmth that poured in through the windows and down the streets. I remember the way heels clicked against the linoleum floor, eyelashes fluttered, anxious toes tapped as the week came closer to its end.
Perhaps this is how all stages of life end and begin, I had thought then. Some people are more eager, branding thick red X’s across each neat calendar box, wasting their days so that the night comes quicker. Some are more hesitant, fearing the sun because its departure brings inevitable darkness. Still others find themselves granted a tender and mysterious faith that can be attributed only to the light of God.
Looking back on these past few months of learning and doubting, I now see beauty in the way the night crawls unfailingly toward us all, perhaps pitying those who fear it, not slowing for those who relish it. Daylight, I know, will come again soon enough, and this makes the red and white lights that dance across the highways and the night skies seem beautifully choreographed. I know now, deeply and from experience, that the sun knows when to set.