As 2009 winds down I’ve been doing what I always do at this time of year, I take some time to take a birds-eye view at the eleven and a half months that are winding down and the twelve months that stretch in front of me pregnant with potential.Last year I wrote about this in a post: Looking Back~Looking Forward.
For the past 11 years, thanks to my precious friend Beth who introduced me to this idea, I’ve been asking God for a “theme” for the new year. Time after time the “theme” is one that’s bouncing around in my head in December and seems hopeful. Like a promise. And time after time my “theme” turns out to be absolutely nothing like I expect. God promises after all, are sometimes a paradox.
For example, one year I thought God said my theme was to : “Love Extravagantly”. I was thrilled. I loved the idea of pouring out love to those around me. I brainstormed and came up with lots of ways I could love extravagantly…little gifts for no reason at all, giving of myself to serve others in practical ways, my list was a half-mile long. Hummm, that friends, was a super tough relational year. When the rubber met the road I had to swallow my pride and make amends with several people. Loving Extravagantly WAS NOT as much fun as I’d hoped. In truth, it was physically painful.
This has happened year after year, so last year when I thought my theme for 2009 was: “Tickled by Joy”. I knew this wouldn’t be quite as exciting as it sounded.
Looking back, it would be almost hilarious if I were talking about someone else. This year, at first glance I think the theme should have been: Lean into the pain. (Then again, if I had believed God was telling me to “Lean into my pain” I would have curled up in a corner and never left the house.) “Leaning into pain” became my mantra for several months. Let me explain, I accepted, for perhaps the first time, that life was hard. Sounds stupid I know. I mean life has been hard for me before, but I always made excuses for “life”. Things like, it was hard because of my choices. Life was hard because of someone else’s choices. I never looked life square in the face and said…it’s just hard sometimes, no matter what you do. For seasons at a time, life is hard.
When the “season” started, I didn’t fall into my old habits of denying the pain, or numbing the pain, or stuffing the pain. I didn’t even get furious and pitch a fit because of the pain.
No, in 2009 God brought me through a season of pain and I just leaned in. For days even weeks at a time I felt like I was walking around in a thick fog. Tears. Pain. Heaviness. It was a tough season. Tickled by joy? Not even close. No joy at all. At least not my old definition of joy.
But guess what? I lived. I lived and when I was done with that season my perspective on joy was different. Heaven to Betsy was it ever. Ya know what I realized? That in the pain, as I leaned in, there was an itsy, bitsy smidge of pure joy. Raw and a little rough around the edges, but it was joy non-the-less. Not a giddy, gushing, clapping, jumping joy. (Nothing wrong with that. I love that feeling) This was a joy that was rooted in God is God and I am not. Life may be painful at times. But there’s more than just this life. The joy I found in the pain was more of an eternal joy. Not a right now feeling but an assurance of something beyond right now. I’m not gonna lie to you. Still, I was not tickled.
But in coming out of that season, knowing full well that there will be other seasons of pain in my life, there has been a bit of a tickle. When the fog lifted and I could breathe easy, I felt it, tickled by joy. Not the joy I’ve always counted on. Maybe that feeling is better called happiness. This “joy” pierced my heart in the process of being buried there.
And when it was all said and done, the “tickle of joy” brought me to tears. There’s more than this life. There’s eternity. The pain I see around me, the injustice I don’t understand, the dreams that lay shattered around my feet aren’t the whole picture. They are part of the whole but they aren’t the whole. There’s more. This life isn’t the end of the story. That brings me joy.
Do any of you take time as the year comes softly to a close, to look back and look forward? If you do, I’d so love to know your process…
Tomorrow, I’m going to share what I believe to be God’s message to me in 2010. It’s the most frightening message I think I’ve heard from Him EVER.
Prayers to each of you my Friends, as we live our legacy~one day at a time.