It was July 2017. I was far away from home – in Sydney, Australia to be exact – when I felt the words drop into my heart.
“2018 will be a big year.”
I could not have fathomed what those words really meant, but felt the truth in my bones. There was no way I could have adequately prepared for the past 365 days, which only goes to show how much I am in need of a grace, love and power much greater than I ever could be.
There were tears shed. There were big fights, honest conversations, opportunities to step up. And in the middle of what seemed like chaos I found healing for things I never thought would see light; I found hope for a future I never really believed would come true.
At the end of last year, I made the declaration that love would always, always take precedence over fear.
Be careful when you make such a statement, because I can guarantee that fear will find itself and attempt to quash every ounce of light you thought you had in you.
2018 was the year I came face to face with fear that I realised wasn’t a way of life. From the time I was a teenager I became used to waking up with a sense of dread. I imagined worst-case scenarios for everything. And perhaps worst of all, to get through the day, I shoved all of my fears into a box and went on business as usual. I rarely faced them, didn’t process them for the most part, and boy did they come to a head this year.
It started with sleepless nights and palpitations that came up intermittently. I dismissed them as symptoms of stress (probably not wrong). And then one day I realised I had expended all my energy and could not get out of bed. It wasn’t a depressive brain fog; my body and mind had quite literally run out of steam. I could barely breathe.
Admitting it to myself was the hardest part – the times I pushed through the pain had finally caught up with me. I didn’t dare go see the doctor for fear of judgement. I thought I had gone crazy. I didn’t want to get help, but at the same time I acknowledged that I actually needed it.
I think the worst part was temporarily believing that I was too broken. Too broken to be loved, to make a difference.
And one day, just as I was tempted to let that wash over me, I played this very song that had just been released:
In my Father’s house
There’s a place for me
I’m a child of God
Yes I am
I am chosen
I am who You say I am
You are for me
Not against me
I am who You say I am
It didn’t matter that I was struggling. It didn’t matter that I had no clue how to get out of whatever this anxietypanicattacknonsensearghhhh was. It didn’t matter that I felt useless and trapped because these do not define me.
It was how I felt at that instant, but not what I would carry forever.
I am who God says I am. And on days I don’t believe it, He (plus a whole bunch of other people who love me) believes on my behalf.
WHO YOU SAY I AM
As 2018 wrapped I looked back and realised it was the first year I learned the difference between fear and love.
There were mornings I woke up gripped by questions about the future. About whether or not I knew what I was doing. About life to the full – what does it really mean? Do I really believe it is for me?
And I was left to confront these questions after meeting g and deciding we’d live out life’s adventures together.
I learned to laugh at myself (and life in general). I learned to have difficult conversations. I learned to accept what it means to share a life with someone.
Living loved is a wonderful thing – but I also realised I needed to allow myself to be loved. The girl who once prided herself on being independent suddenly couldn’t hide anymore. My most random – and deepest – thoughts could no longer simply exist between me and God. The act of surrender has arguably been the hardest – and building trust the second hardest.
And yet. And yet. And yet there is also beauty in disappointment. In learning that love means building something together. In setting rules and then tearing them down because giving each other grace actually is the most important of all.
I was the girl who said at age 9 that I didn’t want to be married, too. I feared what it would mean, that I wasn’t suited for marriage, that I would be a terrible partner for someone. And after 28 years I finally realised that the Big Man Up There has the last laugh – He led me to someone I didn’t think I would date or marry, but said yes to.
I said yes for a number of reasons. In 10 months I understood what “two is better than one” really means. I saw how man and woman complement each other (and drive each other crazy …). I asked my married friends questions about life after marriage and with God, it can be a beautiful thing.
So I decided to once again set aside my fear and take steps to a life which – in actuality – had already been designed for me. I just needed to take the plunge.
And I’m better for it :)
THERE’S ANOTHER IN THE FIRE
There’s a story in the Bible about three men who were thrown into a firey pit for not worshipping another God. These three men were fearful about the consequences – it’s a pit of fire after all. Who wants to be barbequed?! – but even in their fear they decided to hold fast to their convictions.
In November this year I heard a song titled There’s Another in the Fire. It goes something like this:
There’ll be another in the fire
Standing next to me
There’ll be another in the waters
Holding back the seas
And should I ever need reminding
How good You’ve been to me
I’ll count the joy come every battle
Cause I know that’s where You’ll be
As you can imagine, the story ends with the three men walking out of the pit unscathed. Everyone was shocked to say the least, and even the sceptics had to admit that there was an inexplicable element to the miracle.
There were many times this year I felt like I was in the fire. Or g was. Or my loved ones were. And even if I felt alone, I understood that I actually wasn’t. That there’s still a plan to this life, even if I do feel like I’ve come to the end of myself. That there is still goodness and mercy to experience. That God really isn’t far away – I only think He is.
But the men were only able to take the plunge because they had chosen, every day, to take a personal stand in their lives. They did the hard work when they didn’t feel like it. They read their Bibles. They chose a kind word over complaints. They made sure they knew – with as much certainty as they could muster – what God is like, and who they have placed their faith in.
It made going into the fire that much easier, even when it felt like the worst decision in the world.
And as I start 2019, I hope to choose conviction over comfort. To choose God’s way even when it seems like the most impractical. To believe in goodness even in darkness.
To see the light always.
To dream again.
Happy New Year, everyone. As the year transpires, and no matter what comes your way, I hope you hold on to these words:
Fix your eyes upon this one truth
God is madly in love with you
Take courage; hold on, be strong
Remember where our help comes from
Is in His blood
Light of heaven
His kingdom come