It’s a time where you naturally come to reflect on what God has been doing in you in the past year, what might lie ahead in the year to come and begin to get some perspective on things. It’s a natural process and one I tend to go through in the last couple of months of every year.
It’s strange, looking back, just what God has been doing. To be honest, it’s nothing like I expected at the beginning of the year. I realise now looking back, that I had all these plans of what God was going to do this year, how I was going to grow, what was going to happen.
It hasn’t happened anything like I planned – and I thank God for that.
One thing that I am feeling overwhelmingly right now though, at the end of the year, is thankfulness.
I have seen people I love pass on to be with Jesus this year. I have seen good friends lose their jobs, homes or in some cases loved ones. All this has happened in my immediate community, and impacted my world. I have been praying this year for people to find jobs, find homes and for God’s comfort in their grief. I have also had the privilege of seeing people I care for make a public commitment to Christ and be baptised, which has been a source of great joy.
At the same time, God has been taking me on a journey inside myself, into my own heart. He’s been exposing truths about me – some I knew existed, some I didn’t, and it hasn’t been pretty.
I have been through trials where I’ve simply had no choice but to trust God – in particular the areas of relationships, money and calling.
But in the process of examining myself, seeing the truth of who I am exposed by God, and concurrently seeing the grief and suffering that others I know and love are going through, I have actually been woken up to the sheer amount of grace and blessing that’s been shown to me.
For so much of my life I’ve defined myself by being a victim.
At school, I was bullied. Even at church as a teenager, I was left out and excluded. At home, my parents were so busy breaking up whilst I was a teenager that I was excluded a bit at home too. Ironically, this turned out to be a blessing in disguise – it was that which really drove me into the arms of God, and got me praying.
But this pattern of being the victim didn’t end there.
It continued through university, and ever since then I’ve defined myself emotionally by being a victim, or trying to make myself into one. It’s a bad habit, and I still notice myself trying to do that sometimes. Fortunately it’s now kept down to a minimum – and I stop myself when I start to notice it happening, and have good friends aware of it who always stop me dead in my tracks when even a hint of it emerges.
This year, the thing I’ve become most conscious of is simply how I just have no reason to feel like a victim. I have nothing to complain about.
When you see a good friend thrown out of their home with their family, when a friend of yours loses their job, when a friend loses both their parents in the same year, whilst in the same year you get published for the first time, get more opportunities to write than ever before, discover you true calling and passion, as well as finding contentment in your singleness, it kind of puts things in perspective.
I am genuinely thankful for all the blessings and opportunities I’ve had in 2011, the relationships I’ve build up through social networking – including personally interacting with many at the CNMAC 11 conference and Greenbelt – the speakers I’ve heard, the coaching I’ve had.
In truth, as you can see, there’s not much to complain about.
I simply cannot say anymore with any truthfulness that God doesn’t care, that I’ve been left out, that God’s ignored me, that I don’t get the blessings everyone else does.
I just can’t.
I have had to face up to and deal with some difficult truths this year, and that’s been painful at times. However, I have been able to embrace that, because I have had a sense that this is part of God’s refining and renewing me.
I have a couple who mentor me and pray for me regularly, and they and I have both sensed this year that I am moving to the end of one season of my life, and transitioning into another.
Right at this moment I have largely been transitional period and beginning to completely move into this new season – and seeing how God has been working, what He’s been doing, things He’s been bringing to an end or resolving, and new opportunities and relationships that have been opening up to me, it’s so clear that this is true.
Refining isn’t generally pain-free, but it is healthy, and I know that from experience.
I have some ideas on what I want to achieve in the next year, and have mapped out ideas for blog posts, book chapters and other creative ideas, all of which I believe God has given me and is leading me into. I am genuinely excited by what God has been speaking to me about and what I have to share with you in the coming year, and how He is moving in and through me creatively – and you’ll hear more about that as things develop.
However, despite all this planning and optimism for the coming year, I have also come to understand through this year that there are some things that you simply can’t plan for.
That you have to accept that disruption is a rhythm of life.
The truth is that the one thing you should always expect in life, and of course ironically the one thing you simply can’t plan for, is the unexpected.
I will talk about the rhythm of disruption more in the future, but for now it’s enough for me to merely acknowledge it’s existence.
It is part of how God gets our attention, and ultimately part of the ongoing process of death and resurrection, which is the cycle of life, something I’ve talked about a lot.
It’s where parts of us and areas of our lives necessarily going through a ‘death’ in order to bring something fresh, new, better and full of the life that God wants to give us.
This year I have entered into that death process in my life in a very real way, in a way that is true and authentic.
God has taken residence in my heart in a fuller, deeper, more honest way and I have been able to put to death some habits, emotions, attitudes from my past and move into something deeper.
It’s a process I’m still going through.
Indeed, it’s a process that we should all be willing to go through.
God wants us to enter into this process in order for us to be fully alive. To be fully one with Christ means choosing to enter into death and resurrection. It’s not an easy process, granted, but I can testify that it is worth the wrestling, worth the struggle, worth the naked, raw honesty it confronts us with.
Because at the end of that process, you discover a deeper level of intimacy and honesty, with both God and with yourself.
However, you also discover the truth of how blessed you really are, and feel an overwhelming sense of grace and thankfulness, gratitude for what God has given you. You experience a deeper desire to share that with others not so fortunate, to pour that out into the lives of those that need it.
Ultimately, that’s all the process of discipleship, and becoming more Christ-like.
I am thankful to God that I’ve been able to enter into that, and to be able to be a blessing to those less fortunate. I am grateful and humbled too by the sheer amount of grace God has shown toward me, words simply can’t do it justice.
I want to encourage you all though, that the process of death and resurrection is real.
I have said it before, and will say it again. It’s a process we must always be willing to enter into if we are to truly live. I know I will have to enter into it again myself, and that God has things in store for me that I have no idea about yet.
But I have discovered through this year, again, that God is faithful.
He is trustworthy.
He does deliver, and it’s okay to have doubts and questions and not know all the answers. In fact, it’s when we are willing to admit these things that we can really start to enter a period of real growth.
It’s in that moment of raw honesty that we can actually start to be truly alive, and experience God’s life for us in all it’s fullness.
A prayer for us all at the end of this year:
May you know the truth of the grace, peace and love of Christ in your daily living. May you have your eyes opened to the blessings that God has already put in your lives. If you are suffering, feeling alone, abused or abandoned, may you know the reality of God alongside you, meeting your needs. May God show you the truth that you are not alone, that He is with you, with all of us, that He has come for you and to you, and has not and will never abandon you. Finally, may we all learn to walk the tightrope of faith, to learn how to trust, know and be known by God more, whatever our circumstances.
In Jesus name, Amen.
Have a blessed week and a fulfilling new year.
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