This time last year, I smashed 2017 to pieces and said, “Deuces!” Then, I welcomed 2018 with open arms, and turned my back on what was a very difficult year emotionally, physically, and financially. But, that was the wrong approach.
We can’t just pack away our broken pieces and start over from scratch. We can’t sweep them under the rug either. When we do that, we miss the opportunity to learn from our brokenness. Those pieces make up the essence of who we are, so we must embrace them. We must appreciate them, even love them.
But, because I didn’t do that, 2018 smacked me upside the head, as well. Sure, there were some joyous, even ebullient, moments. But the rest of the year was challenging at best. If I had properly unpacked 2017, and organized its contents neatly on a shelf, perhaps I would have been better prepared for the 2018 smack down. And, perhaps I wouldn’t have repeated the same mistakes.
Scripture tells us (in James 1:2) to “count it all joy” when we go through the trials and tribulations of life. Well, that’s nearly impossible to do when you’re in the thick of it. But time, as it passes, gives us the gift of being able to look back on them with fondness.
Now, I can be thankful for 2017. It taught me all about anxiety and depression. It showed me that I cared more about financial stability than I should. It made me rely on God more than ever before. And, it highlighted all the flaws I didn’t know I had, so that I could overcome them once and for all.
AS FOR 2018...
I am still a work in progress. But, at least I’m no longer cowering in the corner taking a beat down from the enemy. Now, I’m swinging back! Don’t come for me if you’re not willing to suffer a couple of blows yourself. My Savior is peaceful, yes, but powerful, as well. And, in 2019, I choose to follow His example of turning over tables if I have to.
With that said, here’s what 2018 taught me:
Not everybody who waves the Christian banner is strong enough to carry His Cross. Jesus told His followers to deny themselves. Love their enemies. Forgive seventy times seven times, among other selfless acts. That’s a heavy, burdensome load to carry for the self-righteous who prefer to hold onto their pride, ego, and bitterness like a security blanket. Only God can show them who they are, which often comes in the form of a very rude awakening.
Think long and hard before you ask God to use you as a vessel. When you open your hands to receive the spiritual gifts that you desire, some of the things you’ve been holding onto for dear life will slip through your fingers. Don’t reach down for them. Don’t pick them up. Leave them right there where they belong because what you now hold in your possession is more precious than what God removed from you.
Be careful what you ask God to do in your life. He will surely prepare you for it, however, the refinement process can be quite painful. Have faith that God knows exactly what you need to get through it. Trust Him and know that, no matter how much it hurts, pain has a purpose. Let God navigate and negotiate those treacherous turns. And, you just keep on riding with Him.
LISTEN. I’ve known this for quite some time, but it became magnified in recent months. God will communicate with you in a miraculous flood of consistent messages if you’re truly listening. I’m in awe of how much God must love little old me to envelop me with words of comfort, strength, direction, enlightenment, and love from every direction. This deeply meaningful experience has made the painful moments worthwhile, even desirable.
If not for my own struggles, I might not have true understanding and compassion for yours. Humility, empathy, wisdom, and strength are gifts that come at a great cost. But, the cost is worth it if those blessings multiply to such a degree that they can be distributed to the multitudes like the five loaves and two fish in Matthew’s Gospel.
Now, I can exhale as I happily carry all that I’ve learned from the last couple of years into 2019. The lessons are priceless. They serve as a constant reminder of how strong I am, how loved I am, how forgiven I am. And, may all that you’ve been through do the same for you. May all of your dark moments be flooded with Light. May you rise above it all wiser and better than ever before.
Happy New Year!