2015 is coming at me like a speeding car, while I am scrambling to gather 2014 up and put it away. Every time, the speed with which one year slips away and a new one rushes in leaves me breathless. Why didn't they plan a breather week in between, so pathetic people like myself can properly transition to the next year instead of being hurled headlong?
I've realized that I need to physically, mentally, and emotionally prepare myself for a new year (high maintenance, I know. If I don't turn out to be a genius I'll feel very cheated.)
Physically: my desk, my closet, my shelves. (Don't laugh, people who are blessed--or burdened, I haven't decided which--in not feeling a pressing need for an orderly and pleasant environment to live happily and productively.)
Mentally: squeezing the time out to reflect on the past year through writing. And yes, I believe in new year resolutions as they shape your attitude and set the tone for the next chapter of life.
Emotionally: reaffirming relationships, taking time to touch base with the important people in my life.
(I haven't managed to do all of that yet for 2014, but I still have several days, after all.
Actually, two days, to be precise.
Not very promising.)
Looking back, it was tough. It was a year which gave me much joy, but which nevertheless found its greatest meaning and definition in pain. One of the most difficult years I've experienced in my short and blessed life. From the memories of pain--or the partially healed scars--two things gradually surfaced as I thought and wrote. I have often thought the writing process distills our experiences, so to speak, leaving us with a clarity of thought and understanding about them which we could never achieve otherwise .
The first thing was lostness. (I know that word doesn't exist; the red squiggly line underneath it is squirming in my eyes.)
Confusion. Anxiety. Doubts.
A few years ago I read and made notes on a small short book by C.J. Mahaney. Christ Our Mediator: Finding Passion at the Cross. I was a well-meaning but (more) immature Christian then, and I'm afraid I made and went at a Christian booklist with the same attitude I would have with any other booklist or project list (basically, the way a bull charges: if it goes down, you're done with it.) However, one thing stuck in my memory. Reliable emotions follow when we first focus on objective truth. Not when we locate our faith in our emotional state, as our emotions are unreliable and flawed.
'There's heart-transforming truth in the Scriptures, but you won't encounter it by first trying to feel it.'
I accepted, didn't feel this.
After all, the things I felt strongly about were right and would never change.
2014 taught me that my emotions are as unreliable and unstable and illogical as a rollercoaster.
Let me change that--my emotions are more unreliable, unstable, and illogical than a rollercoaster operated by a rogue raccoon obsessed with world domination.
(I'm sorry about the raccoon; it was there for alliteration as well as a side effect of Guardians of the Galaxy.)
I learnt, in a hard and bewildering way, that life cannot be run by emotions, attractive as all those pretty Pins with FOLLOW YOUR HEART slogans are.
I felt so strongly about that months ago. Now it's not half as important as it was then...
I thought I could never be happy unless I had that--but I am...
I never imagined I'd care about this. That I'd have an issue with this...
I thought I could never really like him--I thought I could never like her less--
I thought I was past having struggles like this....
We need objective truth. We need the unshakable principles of the Bible to be the foundation even when our minds are confused and our hearts are chaotic. It may not be half as appealing a slogan as FOLLOW YOUR HEART; but it better reflects the flawed, unreliable, unstable, gullible and vulnerable characteristic of the human heart--your heart.
Just this morning my Search the Scriptures, on Jeremiah 37 and 38 examined the character of King Zedekiah. Zedekiah never actually did what God commanded, but he never seemed to actually make up his mind either. He would secretly call for Jeremiah and ask his advice (which he didn't take) and ask for God's word (which he didn't heed.) He couldn't seem to decide whether to be outright mean to Jeremiah or not. Apparently, the people around him and his mood at the time were the determining factors. Zedekiah had no guiding principles. He pretty much made decisions based on his situation and feelings; whether the people around him pressured him or not; whether he felt brave and confident, or not.
I felt like Zedekiah. Confused and unsure. Unstable. One moment up on a euphoric high of confidence, the next plunged into uncertainty and doubt as my emotions, the situation, and people around me changed.
Emotions, though they may feel like the greatest and most significant factor in any situation, are actually the most unreliable.
Back to the Bible. Back to Christ.
Reliable emotions follow when we first focus on objective truth.
Thank you--belatedly--C.J Mahaney.
Much of the pain I struggled with in 2014 was the pain of loss.
Losing people, physically and emotionally.
Losing things which had stayed constant and unchanging all your life until now.
Losing hopes you didn't realize were so important to you till they were dashed.
Yes, these are all parts of being alive and human in our world. I'm not bitter about having experienced them--just smarting. As it was, each experience--the same pain; a different reason--felt like another finger being peeled off, steadily and ruthlessly, the various things I had been clinging onto and relying on. It hurt. Oh boy, it hurt. It hurt so much it made me turn my empty, raw hands to God instead and realize that He was the only thing which could not be torn away, the only thing which I could rely on safely.
My hands were full of my gummy bear collection. Too full to hold onto Him, until my gummy bears were knocked or snatched out of my hands one by one. Again, I had confused the gifts with the Giver. Legitimately good--who doesn't like gummy bears?--but in comparison, nothing.
And last of all--
As you might have guessed, after coming to terms with these two lessons, by default I learnt a third one, the subtlest but perhaps most significant of them all.
For a Christian, at least, pain isn't something wholly and hopelessly bad.
We are all afraid of pain. Knowing that it is inevitable, that it's going to hit us sooner or later, is perhaps the worst part of the fear. But knowing that something good can come of it gives us hope. Hope that even when it happens, it's not the end--that there's more to pain than just hurting and suffering. That it is possible to become stronger, wiser, better, through the pain.
That God is greater, greater than pain, greater than imperfections, greater than we could imagine.
May 2015 be a year in which you learn to know and love Him more; in the joys and
in the pain, but especially in the pain.
a small voice
Ci thinks some of God's greatest blessings to mankind are
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