Ah, New Year’s. It’s my favorite holiday, and my favorite thing to do is to spend it with Jesus. My introverted little heart relishes the opportunity to reflect on the year gone by, and to ask the Lord to reveal His Heart for me in the year to come. I’m not big on resolutions, per say, as much as repentance and conversion – New Year’s Eve is the perfect time to turn away from whatever is not leading me closer to Christ, and to take up again the things I know are necessary for abundant life (even though those things are rarely comfortable).
In the past, New Year’s has often been a subtle disguise for my perfectionistic tendencies to rear their ugly heads: This year, at last! everything will be perfect! I will finally be on track, things will be as they ought to be, all the obstacles before me will vanish – all because I will finally, at long last, be good enough. New beginnings become yet another weapon in my hands, a weapon that I turn against myself.
Jesus has let me get away with this kind of thinking for a long time, but not anymore. It’s surprisingly unsurprising to me that this year as I began to turn my gaze toward 2017, Jesus pulled me aside before I could manage to get out even one of the billion things I would do for Him this year to make it acceptable for Him to love me. He took my by the shoulders, leveled His gaze with mine, and He saw me.
He saw everything. All the thoughts, all the judgement, all the resentment. He saw the wounded ways of relating to people that for the life of me I can’t seem to pull myself out of. He saw the exhaustion that trying to do so causes me. He saw my desperate desire to be loved, and He saw my belief that if I trust Him with that desire, He will leave me empty handed. He saw my longing to be known intimately and to still be found worthy of love. He saw my ache to be touched. He saw my thinly veiled hatred for all these desires and the destruction that always seems to follow in their path. He saw the name branded across my forehead, the crippling identity that I cling to for dear life even though I know it’s the very thing that’s killing me: Burdensome (sometimes translated as Hideous, Unwanted, Ruined, or Alone). And as He reached out to take that scarlet letter from me, as he leaned in to whisper a New Name in my ear, He saw me draw back in fear, believing that His only desire towards me is to take, take, take.
So there I was, huddled in a corner, terrified, like a child starving to death and yet believing that the Bread she is given to eat will turn out to be poison. Jesus saw me there. And do you know what? He didn’t walk out. He didn’t tell me to stop being so dramatic. He didn’t strike me, just to rub it in. He loved me. He embraced me. All of me. Everything He saw, He loved. He loved my desires, my hunger, my needs. He loved the places filled with pain and confusion at having those needs go unmet for so long. He was not surprised by my anger, hurt by my doubt, or threatened by my attempts to fill the void with lesser things. He was not horrified, disgusted, or ashamed. There was nothing I could find within myself that was enough to scare Him away.
I learned something very important about the love of God here: love rejoices in the good (1Cor. 13), it is true, but when it encounters something not good in the beloved, what does it do? Does Love say, “I love that part of you, but this part will have to go”? No. And you see, this is where I have been going wrong for so long. I have believed that God, being all good, could only love what is good in me, but this is simply not so. The glory of God’s merciful love is that He loves all of me.
“While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)
When God brought me into His family on the day of my baptism, He knew exactly what He was signing up for. He knew me fully at that moment, and He (freely! willingly! joyfully! eagerly!) agreed to enter into a solemn covenant with me – the real me, all of me – so that I would forever belong fully to Him, and He would forever belong fully to me. When the Love of God encounters something good in me, He rejoices! But when Love finds something in me that is evil (and believe me, there’s plenty of it), He does not draw back. He does not feel sorrow (“I really wanted to be close to you, but, well…maybe we should just be friends.”). No. Love loves! Love gives! Love rolls up His sleeves and gets to work, because it was for this that Love was sent:
“I have not come to call the righteous to repentance but sinners.” (Luke 5:32)
So I’m finding that this year, the things I’m repenting of at New Year’s are quite different. Instead of repenting of being imperfect (wanting too much, needing too much, seeking too much), I’m repenting of believing that these desires are sinful. I’m repenting of trying to fix myself, and of trying to hide the ugly parts of me from Love who longs to touch those places in my heart most of all.
Where does that leave me, then? Repentance always entails a turning away from and a turning towards. What am I turning towards? To sum it up in one word, I’m turning towards reality: towards myself as I actually am, and towards life as God has actually given it to me, and towards God as He has actually revealed Himself.
The truth is, this is not the life I would have painted if I were the artist. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned about God in all my years of following Him, it’s this: He always does things in the most beautiful way possible. So I will trust Him. I will trust Him to take care of me, to Father me, to complete the good work He has begun in me.
In 2017, God is calling me to be heroically ordinary. In my friendships and family relationships, in my health and finances, in the work that I do and the clothes that I wear – to just be me, no more and no less, and to be okay with that. To be the me that God loves, which means the me with imperfections and sin, the me who doesn’t always get it right the first time. To be able to say with confidence, “I am experiencing anxiety/depression/loneliness/anger/temptation/fear/uncertainty/whatever and I am loved.”
What do you think about all this?!?? Have you ever had the experience of being seen and totally loved by Jesus? Are there parts of you that you would much rather hide from Him?
Know that I am praying for you, dear heart, that as we step together into the Year of Our Lord 2017 you will know that there is nothing in you that is not loved by Jesus.
Until next time,