If I were to write a letter to 2017, I'm pretty sure it would be a rather nasty message. I'm comforted by the fact that many other people could write the same letter about their different circumstances and it would still read the same. Cause 2017 was rude. Full of bright eyed, bushy tailed, risk and shattering failure. 'Rude' is the watered down word I have chosen to represent the verbal torrent of heartbreak and expletives.
However, God has used 2017 to finalize in me the resolution that no matter what “it’s going to be okay”, even when I found myself spinning like a compass; unable to tell any more what true north was.
Truthfully: I succumbed to the place of being lost. It's a dark cruel place where your only solace is from clingy narcotic thoughts that give you a short high of self pity followed by emptiness. I heard old, familiar voices there that offered me old, familiar ways to numb my aching heart.
That is, until I made the decision that reeling compass or not, my north would be Jesus. And I would recover through every captured thought that forced my will to acknowledge God's goodness in the valley of the shadow. It didn't change in a moment, or overnight. But little by little, I began to emerge from the wilderness, and His peace became tangible again.
I didn't have to vigilantly fight back darkness and joy was easier to entertain than my regrets.
Again, my problems weren't fixed, but I was healing. Sometimes, I would still struggle with the stab of emotions from events that had occurred over the year. I wasn't flailing, but when I lost concentration, I felt failure weigh on me like a boulder in my chest. I was dealing with shame.
And then one night, while I was sitting in bed reading, a voice (or thought or however one would explain God speaking) popped into my head.
“Do you love me?” He asked.
In my heart I answered, “Yes, Lord.”
“Do you love me?” He asked again.
I sat there wondering where He was going. Was this like a Peter thing? (John 21:15)
With a little more sobriety I answered, “Yes, Lord.”
“Would you follow me to the grave?” He asked.
“Uhhhhh, like now?” I joked.
So I thought about it more soberly for a moment, and then responded, “Yes, Lord.”
“You know,” He said, “When I died, it looked a lot like failure.”
I swallowed hard, feeling deep emotion rise up in me at the word 'failure'.
“It looked like the promises I had made weren’t true and wouldn’t come to pass.” He continued.
You see, in 2017 I followed God into a big risk, and came out with an outcome that wasn't what I expected; an outcome that shrouded me in shame. In all natural equations, I looked like a failure.
(The next things I heard are perhaps better explained as if a block of data was deposited in my spirit and with it came a new perspective and understanding surrounding His death.)
He explained that not only did He die when others had other expectations for what his coming would be like, how long it would last, and what he should have accomplished, but He stayed dead for three days; Breeding time to begin to doubt what they had experienced and the truth behind it.
I began to cry. I was all too familiar with doubting Him in the wilderness because circumstances didn't turn out the way I expected. And because it wasn't my first fire, I had used all the tools I knew how and none of them were doing the trick of getting me past this.
Fortunately, He continued.
“But when I rose, three days later, there was no denying WHO had done the work, or Who gets the glory.”
I felt a small light ignite inside me. Hope.
Suddenly there was new meaning to Galatians 2:20, "I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me." He had given me a promise that every time I die; die to myself, die to a dream, die to my standards, die to my fear of man, die to my expectations and shame, He will be faithful to resurrect me in glorious form. Danny Silk says, "Shame isn't just a feeling, it is a spirit. It is a spirit that attacks the identity of individuals. This spirit lies to people and leads them to believe that their poor [circumstances] are really flowing from WHO they are." I had failed, but I no longer identified myself as a failure.
And more importantly, He invited me into the dying WITH Him. If 2017 taught me anything, it is that He is on the mountain top shouting with me for joy AND He is with me mourning in the valley.
This is not my first fire. I have been wounded and injured in my journey. I will risk big again and I will fail some more. But this fire showed me My life is to reveal the weight of His eternal Glory. Not because He needs it, but because I do, and the world does. And through me, if they might see Him to be as great as He is, I will gladly go to the mountain and to the valley. He is worth it all. God is ALWAYS good, and the devil is ALWAYS a liar.