As 2007 draws to a close my memories are bittersweet. I suppose it's that way with all of us. I wasn't in a good place at the beginning of the year. I dreaded the months ahead and saw no way I could make it through with my faith and integrity intact without "a surplus of grace." Now I can look back and see that God did supply that surplus of grace. He brought me through yet another "impossible" season. With God, nothing is impossible. This past year I've gotten closer relationships with my immediate family and gained new and greater respect for each of them (excluding the cat). God has weeded out some idols in the garden of my heart and taught me more and more of Himself. I've become more bold and less fearful this past year, and I can attribute that to no one or nothing but God alone. Perfect Love casts out all fear.
There's the more obvious milestones as well. My university studies are officially behind me. Hallelujah! The school I never wanted to attend awarded me a degree with honors. I give glory to God for that as well. I freely admit I didn't want to attend that school, but it's very plain to me that God put me there. I learned practical skills there that I'm now using with the new business the Lord has given me. More than that, it was good for me because of the person I became while I was in that campus environment. I saw, maybe for the first time, people who were truly, desperately and obviously lost and in need of Someone to save them and give them hope. It may have been the first time my heart broke for those who don't know Jesus. It was the first place I stood up for my faith in the face of any real opposition. College was good for me in some really nonacademic ways! Now I've begun Bible college, which is an altogether new college experience for me.
Only recently I've realized that the events of my life have been training... for something. I know it has to do with the purposes of God in my life. I don't know what that's going to look like though. It's a lot like having a jigsaw puzzle... without the box lid to see what the image is supposed to look like. At the beginning all the pieces are just dumped out in a heap, a heap of little brown mismatched cardboard pieces; potential, but potential unfulfilled. Slowly - or at least more slowly than we usually prefer - the Lord begins sorting through pieces, flipping some over to show the colors that hint at the finished image. Some pieces clearly fit with others. Some pieces look like they must belong to an entire other image, unable to connect with the other pieces in this picture. I don't know what my "puzzle" will look like in the end. God knows. I'm still quite young, but I've already learned that my life isn't going to look like I thought it would; it already hasn't. The ideas I had for that finished image were so shallow compared to even the bits I see God putting together.
The biggest and most bittersweet aspect of this past year, arguably of my whole life, has been the ongoing lesson in how to love. As I mentioned before, I've seen the amazing discrepancy between my "love" and God's real love. But my Lord is teaching me continually what love really means, putting more of His love into me to give out. I'm a slow study here I feel, but the lesson continues. Love never hurt as much as it did this past year, and I've learned the pain is a real part of love. Because Jesus loved us so, He suffered greatly for us. If He didn't love us, He wouldn't have suffered. He wouldn't have died. We would have gotten exactly what we deserve, and isn't that "fair"? Ah, but love isn't "fair" - it is instead merciful. Love keeps no record of wrongs. Love forgives and behaves as if offenses never happened. Love is beautiful. And I know so little of what love really is! Still, I am learning.
I'm not one to make New Year's resolutions. I can look back over the past year and see growth and progress in my life. I didn't attain perfection in the past twelve months and I don't plan on achieving that one in the next twelve either, but there was growth in my life, changes for the better. It's all just continued evidence of the goodness of God in my life. As 2008 hastily approaches, my only "resolution" is one that has been ongoing for me for a long time: progress. I just want to keep moving forward, keep growing in my relationship with God, keep sharpening the skills God has given me, "keep on keeping on." At the end of 2008 I hope to be able to look back as I have today and point to the goodness and faithfulness of God, the ways He has brought me through impossible situations, the ways He's made me less like me and more like Himself. As for the specifics, that's in the hands of the One who both designed the jigsaw puzzle and delights in putting the pieces together. I adore Him.
Amy, dear. This is so well said. Being your relative, I can read between the lines and attest to your willingness to listen to the Lord and proceed with caution, even when it hurts. Please continue to WRITE. You have "it" (the stuff!) and express yourself with grace and good sense, which is edifying to so many. Much love always, Auntie LG.