It’s been interesting. On New Year’s Eve, the posts started flooding my feed – you know the ones – the summary of my year posts, the #bestnine posts, the here’s looking at you 2018 posts.
Some find these irritating. And I’ll admit, at times I think so, too. But more so, I find them fascinating. I love reading how people summarize their year – 365 days full of countless breaths – into just a few sentences. I’d argue that there are few other times that someone gives you such an open window into who they truly are and what they care about – especially in an era where we spend so many waking moments carefully crafting our social media facades.
Well, you say, these posts are all on social media. How do you know they’re any different? How do you know it’s not just another superficial “look how perfect my life is” plug?
To which I’d respond with a very scientific, Because. You just know, ya know?
Ok, so maybe not so scientific – but true, nonetheless… don’t you think? There’s something vulnerable in the way people share about their recent past in a small blurb. It’s who they were, not who they are, they made it, they’re moving forward – it’s real.
For at least a few years now, these posts have steadily grown in popularity. I would attribute it mostly to Instagram, as we seem to be completely fascinated with documenting our lives and then looking back at how we #startedfromthebottom. I love doing that exact thing with the best of ’em. But this year seemed different.
This year, there seemed to be a theme. And to put it bluntly, it pretty much boiled down to: 2017 sucked.
Nearly every post I read was tainted with pain.
And here’s the thing – I would consider my social media feed a pretty diverse swath of people. Posting obscene, illegal, or harassing content is one thing – that’ll get you a swift unfriend in my book. But otherwise, I try really hard to stay open to people – even those with whom I disagree.
For some, the pain was political – this was a horrifying year for some, the end of a horrifying period for others, the continuation of uncertainty for many. For others, the pain was circumstantial – a difficult job, unmet expectations. For others still, the pain was medically induced – an illness, a weight challenge, chronic issues. For more, the pain was mental – as we saw a rise in suicides and attempts, and an uncovering of how many people struggle with depression and a wide array of mental health challenges. For many the pain was heartfelt – the loss of a loved one, a tangled relationship, a hopeless mess. The list goes on. I haven’t really even scratched the surface, but I don’t want to depress you.
With every post I read, my own heart broke a little more. Sure, I rejoiced in the happiness and elation that typically ended the post (because, ya know, nobody wants to be a downer, so you better be sure to end on a positive..) – and in truth, I know so many who experienced unmatched joy in 2017 – that’s worth celebrating!! But I struggled to overlook the hurt.
So many people in my own circle of influence who needed encouragement this year.
Scratch that, they needed hope.
They needed love.
They needed security.
They needed peace.
And it pierced my soul to know that I was right there in that same boat with them and yet, did I really do anything to make a difference – rather, to even simply be any different from all the other people bustling past them, caught up in their own pains?
This year was easily my most challenging yet. From starting a new job, to my home being robbed, to losing two grandparents within a month of each other, to the loss of a relationship I held tightly, to struggling with my identity, value, and trust in God’s faithfulness, to co-leading a group of women in studying what God’s Word says about putting on His armor daily despite all the other things that were stacking up around me – the hits just kept coming. It was like an entire year of running hurdles in track (believe me, I had a short stint in the 8th grade and I’m here to tell you it is not as fun as it looks).
But as I looked up mid-air, unsure in that moment if I would clear the hurdle and actually land on my own two feet, I had the Author and Perfecter of my faith at the finish line.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is now seated at the right hand of the throne of God. ~ Hebrews 12:1-2
The thing is, I always did. I always landed on my feet. Not of my own doing, ability, strength, or endless striving for perfection, but undoubtedly, 100%, no questions asked, due to the unfathomable and infinite grace and mercy of my Savior, Jesus Christ, who accepted me at my worst, took my sin and shame, and redeemed my heart to Him. Did I embrace that? Did I cling to that hope and share it with others?
Sadly, I think most of the time that answer was, no.
And here I am, standing shoulder to shoulder at the end of the longest, most difficult year with so many – standing at the brink of a fresh start and endless possibility for all – proclaiming that we #survivednotthrived, and brushing it off like we #diditforthegram.
Well, ya know what? I don’t want that anymore.
I don’t want to get to the end of 2018, another year older, another 365 days gone, saying thank goodness that’s over. Next.
God has redeemed me for more than just surviving. He has called me His daughter for more than half-heartedly trusting that He is for me not against me and then pseudo-praising Him when He proves to me that His character is true and constant. He didn’t rescue me from darkness so that I could cower in the shadows and blame it on society. He didn’t bless me with life and health so that I could hoard it away and focus on the things I don’t have.
The truth is, I do want 2017 to be in the rearview. And I think we are going to have those years sometimes, and I think that’s okay.
But I don’t want the hopelessness I so often felt to shape my future. And I don’t want it to shape yours either. No matter what pain we walked through this year, if we have accepted God’s free, no strings attached, perfect gift of saving grace and forgiveness for all the worst parts of us, the Bible says He is faithful and just to forgive us, to rescue us and adopt us into His family (1 John 1:9). We don’t have to be slaves to our fears and failures (Romans 6:6). We have hope (Hebrews 6:19).
I don’t know what 2018 will bring.
In my planner, type-A, perfectionist natural state I truly wish I did, it would save me a lot of heartache.
I pray, like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego that God will turn on the figurative fire hose and spare me from any more of the furnace. But if not, He is still good. And seeking to truly embrace that promise is worth more than any #bestnine.
Sweetly, my friends,
You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. ~ Isaiah 26:3