If asked how I felt about the end of this year, I would have to say that it feels like I'm inside a snowglobe. I guess that's a strange reply, so I suppose I should go back to the beginning in order to explain.
The year of 2015 was one that opened with so much promise. For some reason, it was one of the first years in a long time that I was eagerly anticipating. This year is going to be epic, my friends and I exulted together. I've got a good feeling about it. January had barely begun when heartache and grief struck us all: friends and family alike suffered from great loss, and the sorrow of broken hearts and dreams. Questions floated up out of the mire, our own voices coming back to haunt us: what happened to the year full of promise we all felt it would be? Where was the good in this?
Clawing out of the pain by hanging onto the cross, I learnt things. Hard things. Things about loving people who hurt you and honesty and what it truly means to be an authentic soul. I learnt about more aspects of God's love (an eternal quest) and how to surrender my life even more fully than I thought possible. I learnt death by living; that to live, one must die to the flesh, pouring yourself out for the sake of others. I spent much of this year with a bruised, battered, and bleeding soul that continually cast itself on the mercy of God as a drowning man throws himself up onto the shore. Yet it was all learning. Continually learning, and growing...
Through all this I've come to realize that life is less about the destination and more about the journey. Yes, yes - I know it's a corny phrase. However the truth of it is not that the journey is scenic, but more that the journey is where you become. I'm learning that where I end up in life is of little consequence. Where my mortal remains end up lying means nothing in the scheme of eternity. No - it's not the destination, nor the journey per se that is most important to God, it's becoming the person He calls me to be. Allowing His Spirit free reign over mine - regardless of circumstances - in order that I might become more like Him. It's been throughout the hard lessons of this year that I've come to see the challenge in a trial, not just to get through it to my destination, but to know that it is creating me. I'm beginning to see what both Paul and James meant when they spoke of "glorying in trials".
"we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope."
- Romans 5:3
"My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience."It's not the trials that are the joy, it's what the trials are doing. It is in the knowing; the understanding it is for our sanctification we can find peace in the hardship. This life is not about who we are now, or where we're going - it's about who we are becoming. And so in the light of this new understanding, hardship and heartache have become golden places for me to learn invaluable lessons; things that help me become more like my Father. Knowing that the testing of my faith produces His character in me. Put most succinctly by Tozer -
- James 1:2
All of this has led me to a bizarre place. Though the lessons learnt and the character built has been an incredible blessing, it has left me without any real means of sharing it. As Jesus took His disciples aside up on the mountain to teach them specifically, I feel as though I've been placed inside a bubble - a snowglobe, if you will - to learn. I press my face against the glass and stare out, soaking in the world: all the pain, the experience, and the exhilaration of it all at once, and yet the glass is still there... between me and the application of all that is pent up inside... A silent witness to the lives of others, watching, waiting and wondering. Like a sponge retaining all the water it can hold without any means of releasing it, I feel as though this year has brought me to the point where I have so much treasured up inside my heart, but the time has not yet come to give it away. And even though this life inside the snowglobe is a lonely kind of place, it's beautiful at the same time. This closeness of God I feel in my spirit I would not trade for all the world outside the glass. For the joy that we share as we tarry there none other has ever known."Slowly you will discover God's love in your suffering. Your heart will begin to approve the whole thing. You will learn from yourself what all the schools in the world could not teach you—the healing action of faith without supporting pleasure. You will feel and understand the ministry of the night; its power to purify, to detach, to humble, to destroy the fear of death and, what is more important to you at the moment, the fear of life. And you will learn that sometimes pain can do what even joy cannot, such as exposing the vanity of earth's trifles and filling your heart with longing for the peace of heaven." - A.W. Tozer, That Incredible Christian, pp. 122-124
Despite all the hard times of 2015, that same joy has blessed me in such intrinsic ways. When I think back to where I was this time last year, I can't help but marvel, and count the many blessings God has so graciously bestowed upon me. I never would've imagined that new friends would become so close; that relationships would bloom out of the ashes, or that I would see sights I only ever knew as photos. I witnessed miracles and healings, stood on the edge of the Grand Canyon, put real faces to real people who were only names to me. I shared countless beautiful hours in the blessed familiarity of my family, soaked in the wonder of falling snow, drank good coffee, spent four glorious hours straight in prayer and ministry with siblings in Christ, sang my heart out, and had the satisfaction of working so hard I could barely stand. I breathed deep of ocean air, drank in the sight of vast landscapes, and loathed parting from those I dearly loved, yet was so grateful for a unity that made parting so hard. I took road trips on my own for the first time, listened to good music, cried at beautiful weddings, and laughed so hard that my sides ached. This life is a precious, rare, and beautiful thing I am so incredibly grateful for.
So whilst I feel as though I'm facing the year of 2016 with my life contained in a tiny little snowglobe, God is here. He has used all this year to shape me one cut closer to who I will become, and if I were to forever remain in this place of quiet wondering with my hands against the glass, it would be well worth it for the One Who is with me. You can have all this world, give me Jesus.
No fear of death, and more importantly, no fear of life. I welcome the next leg of the journey. 2016, may God's will be fulfilled in you.
Every step along the way
I know You never leave my side
Whatever the season I can say
These are the best days of my life.
- Jason Gray