Saturday, January 4, 2014
It’s not difficult for me to say goodbye to 2013. If we graded our years like we grade our movies, 2013 would not get five stars. I’d probably put it at a solid two and a half.
There were great things about 2013. I’m alive, and the people I love are alive. There’s grace, and that makes the living worthwhile. There are babies to squish, and FaceTime to look at their faces when they’re far away. People made my life better: among them, movie dates with Laura, texts and visits with Meaghan, my Thursday night crew who simply cannot stay on track with a Bible study and it is perfect, letters and emails from faraway people who don’t hear from me as much as they deserve. My mother was full of wisdom and grace, my sisters full of friendship and lives lived creatively. I have a job, and an amazing little houselet. I had my best semester of uni and, through one of my classes, was able to work on a project that grew my relationship with my grandmother in precious ways and opened my eyes to the beautiful and heartbreaking story of my great grandmother. I am blessed beyond the basics, and I have everything I need.
But there was a lot that was not great about 2013. And you don’t even necessarily recognise when you’re in it; you just look back and realise, whoa. That was hard. Mostly, it was stuff you can’t even see from the outside looking in, stuff that’s hard to talk about when it’s in media res. People I love went through some really hard and heartbreaking things for purposes that were not always clear. There were so many gaps between what was and what should be. There was a gap between what I imagine church can be and what my reality of it is. There was a gap between what I needed to do for my health and what I actually accomplished. There was a gap between what my faraway friends deserved from me in investment of time and friendship, and what they actually got. A friend who was growing to take a very important place in my life moved away from here. My creativity shrivelled up – or at least appeared to. And one of my jobs left me grinding my teeth and with tension headaches at the end of my workday.
In 2013, even normal daily activities were difficult. I was unwell physically, mentally, and emotionally for about half the year. I have never had so little energy before; it was a whole new experience, and one that left me feeling weak and useless and frightened. I was let down by some friends, let down by my own body, and I felt let down by God. There is, of course, a great difference between feeling let down by God and actually being let down by God, but the former makes the latter seem truer. In reality there was grace everywhere – there always is – but it didn’t necessarily come in the forms I was looking for or thought I needed.
At the end of each year, I tend to look for growth. In 2013, I see very little. But the knowledge that I am here writing about a lack of growth is its own small growth spurt. In a way, the fact that I can write this at all is testament to some level of peace with a lack of answers.
This year, I found myself drawn to a lot of stories in films and books that were content to finish unresolved – without all the loose ends tied up. As a child, I would have been uncomfortable with these unresolved resolutions; after all, if nothing appears to have actually changed, how is it the end? But in the best of these stories – or the ones that I think are the best – while things may look the same on the outside, on the inside there is a spark of something new, a spark of hope that says things may not be different tomorrow or next week, but they are going to change. Things will happen. Aslan is on the move.
I’m reminded of a conversation I had with my uncle and aunty when they visited later in the year. We were talking about the conceit of believing that Christianity means that everything will be fine. “Everything won’t be happy,” my uncle said. “But everything will have meaning, right?” I asked, maybe a little tentatively. And you know how sometimes, even as you voice something you already believe, it becomes a little truer for you than it did before, a little bit more fully embedded in your soul? That happened then.
2013 was not great. It ended, unresolved, leaving as many unanswered questions as it did answered ones. But if there was not a great deal of investment in happiness in 2013, there was certainly an investment in meaning, and faith, and significance. What’s more, that little spark of something is burning bright within, and it looks a lot like the hope that comes with the new year. Here’s to you, 2014.