It's a new year and with it comes a clean page. 365 days to fill with love and surrender. 365 days to live to the full and to relish the joy of being alive.
A lot has happened in the last 18 months for me, honestly. A lot that can't really be written about but that Jesus knows. There have been months that I battled anxiety and depression. Days where I wondered where the hand of God was in the circumstances that I thought would sink me. Moments that I thought the tunnel of darkness wouldn't end.
Those months and struggles were very real, but as the new year begins, that is not where my attention lies. We need the darker periods of our lives to make us strong and brave and deep, but when sun shines again, there is a beauty and peace in welcoming it with open arms.
A few days before New Years I slipped away from the busyness of prep for GYC and found a quiet spot to sit and talk with Jesus. I haven't taken enough of those moments in the past months but I'm learning more and more how incredibly priceless they are. Every time they change my life just a little more.
This time He reminded me of the ways that pain can affect a life. It can create some of the most selfish, heartless, and cynical people. Our pain has been genuine but we rehearse it over and over in our heads and think that because we have been through so much we are entitled to our feelings of hardness to the ones who hurt us. There's this subtle mindset that it's ok to be the ones always demanding support and encouragement or on the contrast blocking others out completely... that it's ok to let the pain define us and cloud the rest of our life... that it's ok to let it bind us and prohibit us from reaching the heights we were made to reach. When we see pain this way we walk through life with this led weight tied around our ankle that we can never escape and that hampers us from experiencing the beauty all around us.
That's not to say that we don't need time when we've been through the fire. Wounds take awhile to heal and it's only the foolhardy who slap bandaids over them and thinks that life can resume as normal. Pain demands to be felt, and healing rarely sticks to any kind of time table we set out for it.
But here's the thing that Jesus whispered to me in those moments I spent talking to Him the other week. Pain has the ability to make the most beautiful people in all the world. The hearts that beat with selflessness for others, understanding for the hurt of the world, care for every person-- even the most unpopular-- that comes from pain. We learn to see every dark chapter we have been through as a gift that softened our hearts to the sufferings of others. We may have been through our own personal furnace but instead of holding onto the scars as a reason for us to pity and excuse ourselves, we see it as an opportunity to come alongside the people who are still in their furnace. Instead of rehearsing all the ways we have been wounded we count over and over the ways we have been blessed beyond measure through that pain.
I'm not sure I'd ever seen the two options so clearly until He laid them out to me. As much as I didn't want to admit it, I knew there was too much of the first attitude hiding in the corners of my heart. Somehow though, seeing the alternative sparked a desire in me to let every breath in me be one that I allow Him to make beautiful.
Before the new year even begun, I knew He was doing something new in me. Or rather, taking deeper something He has been doing for awhile. Sure, letting pain purify our hearts instead of steeling them isn't always easy. Even in the first few days following my conversation with Him, it meant loving people who had hurt me. It meant opening my heart and reaching out when I wanted to close it and run away. It meant looking at the bright and beautiful when I wanted to dwell on injustice. It meant giving of myself when I was tired and drained. But oh the peace...
My day to day routine is primarily service as it is. Every day I get to love 60 teenagers and serve them in all the little details of life, and I love it. But sometimes I get caught in the craziness and launch into it in my own strength. This new year I knew I wanted something deeper.
The minutes until the new year ticked by and I stood overlooking the city of Houston and a million little lights twinkled in the distance. This last year Jesus proved His faithfulness to me in so many ways. He walked with me through the darkness and brought me out the other side and held my heart so gently. He answered so many prayers and fulfilled so many dreams. In the stillness I knew what I wanted for this New Year.
I want Him to let the fires I've been through purify my heart. I want Him to take every shred of selfishness in me and turn it into His selfless love for the lives He has placed all around me. I want Him to keep teaching me what it means to care about the people who hurt me. I want Him to make me braver every single day to rejoice in the gifts He has given when my heart would like to complain at the ones He seems to have withheld.
I want Him to make me like Him this year. Pure. Selfless. Beautiful.
The seconds count down and the fireworks set off and I know that every single breath I breathe is a gift beyond measure. Because sure, this year is going to have hard days that we wish we could skip. But I pause and think of all the beauty... because that is the majority.
Even darkness turns to light with Him. Maybe because He knows how to make the darkest chapters the ones we are most thankful for in the long run when we let Him transform us.
This New Year, pull us out of our pity parties and make us a light to the rest of the world. Heal our wounds and turn them into scars that show the rest of the world the way Your grace is always enough. Purify us. Teach us to love like you-- even the least of these in the moments we least want to love. Use the furnace to make us gold Jesus. Not anything less. We are yours. Every breath is yours this year. We owe you our lives.