It’s a new year. The proverbial page has turned and 365 more days lay stretched out before us like a blank canvas begging for the touch of a brush. But I can’t begin yet. I have to turn that page back and look at what it meant to live the days before this one.
Because, you know. I’m always looking for God.
I need to know He was there. I have to see the marks left by His hand in my life. I will, inevitably, face forward, leave what is behind and reach for what lies ahead. But first, I need to sit down and look at the picture and see what God was doing on the canvas in 2018.
This year, I allowed someone to make me feel incompetent. In the face of what felt like continual criticism, I gave in to the belief that I do not have what it takes to do what is actually a very simple job. And one day it became too much, and I cried. A lot. Like, all day.
But God. He told me to get up. To stop crying. And to stop giving someone power they don’t own. Stop giving anyone permission to change my truth. Stop letting someone else, with issues that can be seen from a mile away, determine my confidence level, my self-worth.
So I got up, and I kept going. When everything in me wanted (and still wants) to leave, I’m going back. I will go until God tells me not to go. I will stay on the mission until the mission changes.
This year God taught me that you don’t walk away from the mission field just because someone made you cry.
And then they told me I’m not pretty enough. Oh goodness, not in those words. But in other words that were just as pointy, just as stabby and humiliating. But I didn’t cry. (maybe a little in my car on the way home. just a little.) Because this time I recognized the hand held out to receive power that isn’t theirs. The power to make me believe that my value is in my outward appearance. The power to reduce me to an image, to a first impression. The power to make me feel that my looks matter more than my kindness, more than my compassion.
And God. This time, He told me not to wrestle with someone else’s devil. So I didn’t. I kept my head up. I allowed myself to feel beautiful in my own skin. And I embraced the truth that kindness and compassion are the heart of God that beats within me and that is no small thing and it leaves a far deeper impression than an extra layer of makeup will ever leave.
This year God taught me to stop giving people power that doesn’t belong to them.
(And that some people have devils that aren’t mine to wrestle.)
There was a season this year of letting my flesh run the show. That was ugly. I became a complainer, a gossiper. I was discontent and angry and indignant and I didn’t care who knew it. Like a sickness, it started slow and then suddenly my character had malaria. And then (finally) God brought a heap of fiery conviction on me that had me repenting my guts out and oddly enough, I was so very thankful. I was a child who desperately needed to be disciplined before I really brought harm to myself and others.
This year God rescued me from myself, yet again.
I have no idea what 2019 holds. None of us do. But I know that 2018 strengthened me in ways I would not have chosen. It forced me to choose truth over lies, for real. It brought me over and over again to a choice – listen to my flesh, and to the voices of others, and flee the hard place, or obey what I knew deep down God was saying. Stay in the hard. Stay in the painful. Stay in the place that makes me want to run.
Our instinct is to want out, to think that surely this cannot be our portion. But this year, I learned that God always has purpose in hard places, and my portion is Him, not a life without hard.
As I stand back and survey the canvas of 2018, painted over all of the hard is the same word that I have seen every year.
God never stood back from me. Never watched from a distance. Even when I think I have to run to Him, I don’t. All I have to do is turn. Reach out for Him. He’s there. Saying ‘get up’. Teaching me who I am even after all these years of being me. Showing me that His purpose, not what someone else thinks of me, is the priority.
My story isn’t your story. God’s brush strokes on my days will look different than on yours. But I know that the last 365 days of your life were not without God in them, regardless of how it feels. His faithfulness was there.
And so it will be for the next days. All of them. Hard ones and easy. Painful days and the ones where the lovin’ is easy and the air is sweet. Nothing changes Him.
Faithful. To the end of the days.