Don't get me wrong; it wasn't all peaches and cream. Once or twice things seemed pretty grim for ol' Jordan. I faced a health scare or two, more car trouble than any one person could ever deserve, relational pains I wouldn't wish on the Westboro Baptist Church and some premium-quality anxiety.
Still, in spite of it all, I look back on the last year and the big picture is actually pretty stunning. After all, in just the last twelve months I graduated college (first in my family), moved back to Springfield, got a new car, bagged two of my dream jobs working with young people (at a juvenile detention center and my home church), got plugged back into Springfield Young Life, and moved in with two of my very best friends. Lots of checks off the grown-up checklist.
So in honor of this insane year, I'd like to share 13 realizations I've had since last New Year's Eve (inspired by this Relevant Magazine article).
13 Things I Realized in 2013:
1. People are beautiful and worthwhile.
2. Love requires vulnerability.
"I love, therefore I am vulnerable." ~ Madeleine L'Engle
3. Kids are kids.
4. Homophobia is not a Christian value.
5. I have an incredible family.
This really shouldn't be a revelation. I've lived with them for the last twenty-plus years and I really ought to have realized before now I'm blessed with a funny, warm, inclusive, riot of a family. Sure, we're messy. We may fight from time to time (and batten down the hatches when we do), but all in all I am so lucky to have an amazing mother, a brilliant sister, the coolest cousin and so many other colorful fruits in my family tree. Granted, I haven't always been the best brother/son/cousin. I've gone off and done my own thing, occasionally neglecting those nearest and dearest to me, but this year I realized God put these incredible people in my life for a reason. They take care of me and I take care of them. That's how it's supposed to be.
6. Home is where Christ is.
7. Prayer works.
8. Cynicism is easy; hope is hard.
My generation is so cynical. We cannot enjoy trends without attaching irony to them. We must be wary of expressing too much enthusiasm lest we come off desperate or uncool. And honestly, for a pie-eyed romantic like me the whole thing is exhausting. I'd much rather just like stuff, dance when it feels good, and sing like no one's listening. But I'm not supposed to be that way. I'm supposed to be critical, realistic, somber. I'm supposed to be so over the whole thing. But I'm not. And I'm learning it's ok I'm not. After all, when trouble strikes it's all too easy to give into the negative and wallow in it. Cynicism, sarcasm and pessimism are cheap and tasty but ultimately hollow. What takes more courage, more conviction, is to be hopeful in the face of disappointment and rejection. The world will give you too many reasons to give up hope; don't let it go without a fight.
9. Women are people.
|The title alone strikes fear into the hearts of Christians and feminists alike, the whole world over.|
10. You can't make people stay.
I like to consider myself a friendly person. Nothing brings me more pleasure than making new friends, especially new best friends. I have this tendency, though, to over-invest, to lose myself in relationships and put myself on the line for people who tend not to treat me all that well for it. And a couple years back I poured myself into a particular handful of friendships, all of which I watched fall apart in the last year (not for my lack of trying). I can honestly say I would take a bullet for any of these young men who want little or nothing to do with me, and it stings in a way not much else can. So I reach, I scramble, I beg and plead. And then, when I am rejected or ignored for the thousand-and-first time, I let them go. I can't make anybody stay with me, stay my friend. I can only pray and cry and grieve and, God-willing, move on. Maybe these friendships will be resurrected on those final days when the rest of us are. Maybe. Please Lord, let it be so.
11. Stuff is just stuff.
12. There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind (C. S. Lewis).
I used to hate change, even priding myself on my unwillingness to try new things. Which is, when you think about it, a pretty tragic attitude for a child to have (usually it takes some maturing before cynicism like that sets in). I'm beginning to realize, though, that to grow is to change, that if we're not growing we're dying. Those are the two options: grow or die. And I choose life. Sure, new things are scary, but so are most worthwhile goals at the outset. My propensity for nostalgia, to believe the best is behind me, has plagued me for years but is now being blown apart by the new horizons I'm exploring with my Lord. He is showing me the best is yet to come. And won't that be fine.
13. God takes care of His kids.
God as parent is a metaphor. Granted, it's a potent metaphor but a metaphor nonetheless, as God did not literally conceive any of us (unless you count that one guy). The idea behind this metaphor is that God, like a parent, guides us, protects us, teaches us, and helps us grow into mature, whole people. Where the metaphor breaks down is there is a point between earthly parents and children when the latter no longer depend wholly upon the former. Once they've learned everything they can from their parents, most children venture out into the world independent and autonomous. As God's kids, however, we are not designed to achieve autonomy from our Divine Parent. We do not stop needing God just because we learn how to tie our shoes or do our own taxes. To be child of Yahweh means to remain in this place of spiritual nourishment, of utter dependence. So even now that I'm twenty-two years old and like to think I'm a grown up, I know in my heart of hearts that without God I am a toddler wobbling around in a dark room. Without God I'm screwed. But thankfully I am not without God. He promised to take care of me and He has. And He is. If you've any doubt see items 1-12.