A new year is upon us. I feel fairly indifferent about it all. I think this is the first time in my life where I’m not excited to jump into another stage. 2018 was exactly what it was: a year. There were good days, bad days, and a lot of eh days. I learned a lot, and I grew a lot in 2018. Don’t get me wrong, I made some mistakes along the way, but that’s how we learn. I made some beautiful friends in the last year. Some days I was so content that I just wished those days would stretch on forever. Some days I was so discontent that I almost dropped everything and wanted start over in something else. Throughout all the wins and losses, the year was made special by those with whom I spent it. And I’m thankful for that.
Thinking about this blog and especially it’s contents in 2018, I am fairly happy with what I wrote and how I wrote it. Oftentimes, I’m writing as much to encourage myself to use my voice as I am to share my voice with others. Many people, maybe even most, find it more difficult to speak openly to flaws of the existing social systems than they do to affect change in their own hearts. I have the opposite problem. For me, to call on churches, governments, and others to do the right thing is much easier than acknowledging, even privately, the corners of my personhood that are not seeking justice and loving mercy.
I struggle with introspection. Strangely enough, I’m more self-reflective when I’m in the presence of others than when I’m by myself. Being self-reflective in public moments at least gives me something to talk about. I’m largely afraid of being found out to be who I most fear that I am: a fraud.
My family and close friends would be able to identify me as an often fairly disagreeable person. I remember growing up my mom would say things to me like, “If I said the sky was blue, you would say it’s not.” And she was right. My parents often referred to me affectionately as a Smart Alec, which turns out to just be the church appropriate way of calling somebody a smartass. I don’t really know at what age I became someone looking to poke holes in the rulings of authority figures, but by high school, I was in full bloom. I was never in trouble, ever, but that doesn’t mean that I was always easy to get along with. Youth pastors would be able to identify my high school self as that student who could be a great leader, but could also be a pain when they wanted to be. I quickly learned that there was always a way to pretty blatantly disobey while making it look like I had good motives. One time in high school a few of my friends and I walked out of the planned youth group events to have our own unsanctioned small group. As I made sure to tell my mom later, “We had our Bibles with us and everything,”
Of course I didn’t then have the self-awareness to understand that my desire to undermine authority figures was born out of my own insecurities. I know that now, so I have less of an excuse. I was insecure that I wouldn’t be known as smart, funny, or cool, but instead I was insecure that I would be simply known. Known to be only me, and I didn’t think that would be enough. On my worst days now, that scared teen still comes through.
What I didn’t know then was that who I am, behind the bluster and pseudo confidence, is enough. I still forget that sometimes. I often have to remind myself that I don’t have to earn my worth or have my worth voted on and judged by a panel of my peers. Any affirmation that I receive when I’m overcompensating doesn’t last in my heart because it’s not really affirmation of me, it’s affirmation of the character that I play. I need to remember that it’s ok to not know what to do and ask for help. I don’t have to have all the answers, and I don’t have to give all the answers to people who didn’t ask me what the answers were in the first place.
In the Bible in the book of Genesis, God comes to this guy Jacob in the night and God wrestles with him for hours. Eventually God knocks Jacob’s hip out of place, but Jacob doesn’t disengage, saying, “I won’t let go until you bless me!” So God blesses Jacob and changes his name to Israel, which means One who wrestles with God. Author Annie F. Downs takes this away from the story: God gives us a limp and a blessing. Our limps and our blessings are tied together, and we can’t have one without the other. For me this looks like being willing to address the brokenness and injustice of our systems (blessing) but at the same time struggling to address the brokenness and injustice inside of myself (limp). Or as Jesus might say, I am quick to attend to the speck in the eyes of others, but slow to attend to the log in my own.
The more conscious we are of our limps, the more we’re able to live into our blessings. I am enough, not because of what I’ve done but because of who I am: a person. And so are you. We don’t have to keep measuring ourselves against each other because God knows us and welcomes us without a pecking order.
So it’s a new year. And with this blog and my different platforms in 2019, I hope to put forth more introspective and vulnerable content like this. As I wrap this up, I’m aware that this isn’t the most eloquent thing I’ve ever written, but it is honest, and that’s where I need to be.
Thanks for reading!