2017 is winding down. I can honestly say I will be relieved to see this year go. It was a hard year. A transformative year. A painful year. A year in which I finally allowed myself to feel every painful feeling even when it was suffocating. A year that saw a breaking in me that is still taking place. Through it all, God was faithful, walking me through every moment. As painful as it has been, I don’t think I would trade this year for anything. I just do not want to repeat it.
Last week I climbed a steep cliff. On the spur of the moment. I was hiking through the woods with my niece and a friend. It was snowing and beautiful. And icy. My friend told me that I could not climb the cliff. It kind of made me mad. So up I went. I had to claw the mud and make holes for my knees. I crawled between trees. It was cold and muddy and wet. Very symbolic on how I feel I have gotten through this past year. I have had to claw my way through the dirt of life, the mud of my past to get to the summit. The view once I got to the top was breathtaking. I forgot about my wet gloves, cold hands and muddy knees. It was exhilarating (until I found a dead carcass). Anything worth having is worth fighting for. I just get tired of the fight sometimes.
Today is my spiritual birthday. Thirty-two years ago I made the decision to follow Jesus Christ. I was fifteen years old. I did not grow up in church. I knew nothing of the Bible. God and Jesus were swear words to me. On Christmas Day of that year, I remember laying in bed praying to God, “If you are real, you need to show yourself to me because I cannot do this anymore.” I was not suicidal but I was headed down a path that was making me miserable. I knew I was headed for a big crash if something did not change. Four days later I was at a friends house who had become a Christian the summer before. As I poured out my heart and troubles, she handed me a Bible and said, “I don’t know what to tell you but this has helped me. Why don’t you read it.” She left me in her bedroom. She went and watched MTV. I had no idea what to read or what it was even about. I opened to the Gospel of John and read it in one sitting. I knew none of the fancy theological terms but I did know these four things when I had finished reading; 1. God was real, 2. I had really screwed up, 3. The decisions I was making were not my mom or my dad’s fault or the way I was brought up…they were my fault, and 4. God somehow was real and had provided forgiveness and a way out.
I called my friend back into the room and asked her what I needed to do. She didn’t know. She said, “I think you pray.” So I did. I know it was not eloquent and probably had some swear words interspersed in it but it was real and raw and heartfelt. I immediately felt a lightness and knew something radically had changed inside of me. That night completely changed the trajectory of my life.
Here I am 32 years later. Two days away from this year ending and a new one beginning. Twelve days away from turning another year older.
And I feel more like the 15-year-old Heidi tonight than the soon to be 48-year-old Heidi.
I have never been more unsure of myself and what the future holds.
These past 32 years have been full of heartbreak, loss, failure, tears, and anguish…
But they have also been full of joy, laughter, hope, adventure, and success.
I sometimes wonder what would have happened if that night never had happened. Who would I be today? Where would I be today?
I have been doing a lot of questioning lately. Not about God. He is more real to me than anything or anyone else in my life. Time and experience has proven Him real and true over and over again. What I have been questioning are the consequences of my decisions. The decisions I have made, the good ones and the bad ones. They all have consequences. Did the bad ones thwart God’s plan for my life? Can you negate the consequences to the negative ones? How can I lay to rest the “what ifs” and simply acknowledge some things have died due to my decisions? I don’t know. I so wish I did. The struggle is so very real. Sometimes I think I am too introspective. I feel and think things too deeply. I do know the sum of all my choices has led me here. To this moment. To who I am today. To who God has molded me to be despite my interference and attempts of self-sabotage. And for the most part, I like who I am (with the exception of the past month…I’ve been a little difficult to be around).
There are things I still want that I don’t know if they are in the cards for me. And I’m a little resentful. And a lot sad. Intensely sad.
I think it was the Rolling Stones that sang, “You can’t always get what you want”. They go on to sing, “But you might find you get what you need”. I acknowledge and am thankful that I have always gotten what I have needed. God is so good and so kind to me. More than I deserve.
The more I follow Jesus, the more I understand how messy and complicated life is. We want things to be black and white, nice and tidy. Life is simply not that way. Following Jesus is not easy.
I am a big Dr. Who fan, which surprises even me because Sci-fi is not my thing. This Christmas was the final episode with the current doctor (I won’t even try to explain it because it is complicated but this one has been my favorite and I cried. A lot.). Basically, he was dying. In the episode before the Christmas one that sets up the finale, he has this speech in which he explains why he does what he does and lives the way he lives (saving the universe), “Life isn’t about winning. It is not because it is fun — God knows it’s not because it’s easy; it’s not because it works because it hardly ever does. I do what I do because it’s right because it’s decent and because above all, it’s kind”.
As another year comes to an end (2017) and I close the door on the 47th year of my life and celebrate another year of following Jesus, I am learning to live in the tension. I follow Jesus not because it’s easy, or it’s fun or because it works the way I think it should. I follow Jesus because it’s right. And it makes me decent. And it makes me kind like He is. I understand I can’t always get what I want. I don’t know what this year holds. Life is hard, beautiful, messy, full of wonder, joy, pain, tears, and laughter. All at the same time. In the words of Cold Play “Life has a beautiful, crazy design.” (And I do crazy well).
I simply choose to live. And follow Jesus. Like I did thirty-two years ago.