Beauty for ashes : Reflecting on 2021

December 31, 2021

Here we are, the inevitable ‘out with the old, in with the new’ blog. Have I been avoiding writing this? To be honest, YES! I knew I should about a week ago already and I’ve just casually been distracting myself.

I’m not sure what to say about 2021.

What do you even say about a year like we’ve just had? Normally, by now, we’ve received the revelations and it’s time to look forward. Onward and upward right? The truth is, I am still struggling with some of the things that went down this past year. I am still waiting to see the turnaround and still waiting on the fruit. Now, there were definitely some exciting and amazing moments and memories. So many absolute testimonies of God’s faithfulness and goodness – but there were also some deep pruning, great tragedies and lots of letting go that had to happen.

So, what does one share about this past year? I don’t know, I don’t think I can neatly tie this one up with a bow, but I can share a few things that have mulled in my heart. It might be a little messy, but hang with me… maybe we’ll get somewhere eventually.

We are still in a global pandemic.

Can you even believe it? I thought for sure that this year would be the year that I could finally ditch the mask and go where I want to go, when I want to go there with anyone I want to. Here we are, December 31st, and when I go to the shop later, the last thing I will be checking for as I head out the door will be my mask. A global pandemic is one thing, but it’s not just the disease itself. It’s the ocean of opinions and thoughts that go with it. Navigating sickness in some ways, is much easier. There is clear direction, a plan of action and there are no real feelings, emotions or opinions involved. Here is a sickness, here’s how you don’t get it, and if you do, here’s how you treat it.

How do you navigate the labels though? The accusations? What about the emotions that get all fired up at the mention of everything that goes with a pandemic? And how do you navigate loving your neighbour, while still sticking to your own convictions? How do you be sensitive, but also lay down a boundary? How do you live your life, while also being empathetic? And how on earth do you reconcile relationships that have taken strain because of the immense distance that the past 2 years have caused?

I wish there was a how-to on this one. If I had the answers I would share them, even if I knew how to go through them gracefully and successfully. Unfortunately, I don’t. With each of those questions, has come a wrestling. I have doubted myself and my own intentions, wrestled with people and theirs. I have said things I shouldn’t have and responded in ways I wish I didn’t. It’s been so messy trying to figure this whole thing out and you’d think after 2 years we would have it waxed.

God doesn’t see what man sees.

The biggest lesson for me, on this front, has been the knowledge that I don’t know what is in someone else’s heart. Funny enough, this dawned on me when someone made assumptions about mine, and I realised they actually just have no idea. We look at limited information and decide exactly what that person’s intention is and how they came to that conclusion. We like to talk about what God said to Samuel when he went looking for a king in the context of us. Remember, God doesn’t see what man sees (Sam 16:7), but then when we talk about others we assume that what we see is obviously what God sees. We are simply ‘discerning’. No no, I’ve learned (more like, been learning) to just stay in my lane. All I can do is what God is leading me to. And if I’m not sure what that is, stay put and keep quiet!

Loving people where they are at can get complicated at the best of times. Add in some social distancing, the internet and lots of fear and anxiety and it can become a minefield. God doesn’t see what man sees, so our eyes will never tell the true story unless we lean into what He is saying.

Faith doesn’t make things hurt less.

I know, probably not a popular statement. In our Christian bubble we are so full of our own Christian platitudes that we forget that our faith never meant that we would be exempt from pain. Telling someone that “the Lord knows”, doesn’t mean the pain right now in this moment is now diminished. Even things like: “God needed another angel” when someone passes, or “He gives the greatest battles to the strongest soldiers” when someone goes through something painful. We are so afraid of pain, that we look for quick and easy sentences to make sure we can move on from it quickly.

The reality is, we are not just not exempt from pain, we were guaranteed it. Having faith and being a believer never meant that things wouldn’t hurt. It meant that we would befriend the Healer and never be in it alone.

There is no real formula to grief and suffering.

I have seen immeasurable suffering this year, experienced the pain of sharp words and broken relationships. I have stood near to loss that felt like injustice and have seen the aftermath of what happens when the worst of humanity shows up. In none of it did my faith waiver for a moment. In fact, it released a deeper cry, and a deeper hunger for the only One that could make sense of the senseless. However, not I, nor those involved, were excluded from the pain either.

Feeling pain, doesn’t mean you don’t have faith. There is no real formula to grief and suffering. There are tools and guidelines, yes. But at the end of the day, the only thing close to a formula that has ever worked for me, is this : “run to Jesus, and run fast.” More than that, when you get there, fall into His arms and pour out everything.

Can we leave the ‘fix-it’ culture in 2021 please? Can we be okay with not just feeling our own pain, but sitting with others in theirs? Not everything will be an instantaneous deliverance or healing. Sometimes we elevate those, and forget that the healing that took time to walk out is just as miraculous. The person that got healed from depression after seeing a counsellor has just as much of a testimony as the one who had hands laid on them and was delivered in a moment. Suffering stirs in us a cry for our Healer Redeemer like no other situation can.

Good enough isn’t good enough.

That sounds like a negative statement doesn’t it? I don’t mean it to be. This past year, I have grown tired of my ‘good-enough’ Christian life. You know, checking the boxes, being a semi-nice person and always feeling like the commands of scripture is simply unattainable. I mean, I would never say this in conversation, but I felt quite justified in my offenses sometimes, so I’d embrace them. The trick is to just be with people who would fan your flame. The thing about going through a crazy year like 2021, is it kind of forces you to assess what is really important. It forced me to look at my life and ask myself some tough questions.

Am I living fully for God? Is my fire burning or has it dwindled as time has gone by? What is His worth to me?

I dove into Phillipians after hearing a sermon that completely wrecked me. I’ll leave a link below. I heard some of the words from this short little book in the new testament and I realised that if I were to take them literally, things in my life would need to change. If I were to assume that the writer, Paul, meant what he said, then to say I was falling short was an immense understatement.

Now, don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t a condemning feeling at all. It was one that nudged me, reminding me that there is more. That I have been looking for fruit in my life, looking for the more, but I’m looking everywhere except the scriptures. Funny that.

Let me share a few of these truths with you:

Philippians

  • As citizens of heaven, live your life worthy of the gospel of Christ. (Phil. 1:27)
  • Do nothing out of selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves. (Phil 2:3)
  • Everyone should look not to his own interests, but rather to the interests of others. (Phil 2:4)
  • Adopt the same attitude as that of Christ Jesus (Phil 2:5)
  • Do everything without grumbling and arguing (Phil 2:14)
  • Rejoice in the Lord always. (Phil 4:4)
  • Let your graciousness be known to everyone. (Phil 4:5)
  • Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. (Phil 4:6)

Who knew, that a book with 4 little chapters would take me months to get through. And still, it feels wrong to move on from it, because these things are still things to grow in. But, I guess it will always be. Meditating, reading and re-reading, assessing and praying about these scriptures the last few months have at least imprinted them on my heart. And there has been growth. Studying these have been my lifeline during a time where I just haven’t known what to do or what to say.

When confused about a decision, I know to not look at my own interests, but the interests of others. Emotions running wild? Well, rejoice ALWAYS in the Lord! Not sure if my actions are what they should be? Well, let’s check if this is a life worthy of the gospel of Christ.

Good enough isn’t good enough anymore. It’s time for more.

To dream or not to dream?

In preparing for new year’s eve, I’ve been battling to dream. 2021 showed us that, we sure can make our plans, but God is the one that makes them happen. And sometimes, our plans get caught in the mess of the enemy’s agenda and God’s ultimate redemption. Things don’t always look the way we thought they would. At least, I didn’t think I would be where I am now when I entered into 2021.

When I sat with the Lord having some quiet time, I poured this hopelessness I’ve been feeling out to Him. It wasn’t pretty at all. I have never been a graceful ‘cryer’. But He met me there.

After sobbing for a few hours, I simply said this: “Lord, I don’t need to know what next year holds, I just need to know that You’re going with me.” That’s really all I need. Sometimes, I think I need answers and specifics, but really all I need is to know that I’m not alone. As I prayed it, my heart quieted and I felt the peace of God.

Beauty for ashes.

I’ve learned a lot this past year. God’s provision over my life has been nothing short of miraculous and grace I’ve been living in has been completely undeserved. The lessons have been hard, the pruning has been painful, but the one constant has been His presence. We never need the answers more than we need Him. And when you have Him, you have everything.

I am going to choose to dream in 2022. I am trusting that it will be the year of immense breakthrough and fulfilled promises. Not because I necessarily feel like it, but because I know God. I know who He is and I know that He is faithful to bring the most breathtaking beauty from even greatest mountain of ashes.

Ashes mean that fire has passed by, and fire means refining has taken place. There is hope. In the fire, in the ashes and in the beauty to be revealed. Let’s have hope, not because we know what lies ahead, but because we know we’re not walking alone.

Do you.

Friend, if you’re reading this, and this year has been one storm after another and you’re struggling to feel super excited about a new year, I want you to know that it’s okay. We don’t all move at the same pace and we’ve all experienced this year differently. Take your time and don’t skim past the important things. Run to Jesus, and run fast.

If you are excited about the new year and feel like you can’t be because it’ll be insensitive to those around you, please BE EXCITED! We’re sensitive and mindful of who we’re around, but don’t feel guilty for being expectant and excited. In fact, it’s people like you that will help others not sit in their grief as the clock strikes 12:00. Your expectation stirs the expectation of others.

Whatever you do, do you. Go at your own pace and from me to you… well done for making it through.

Have a wonderful 2022.

2 Responses

  1. Loved this Lelané. So down to earth, I think it helped me wrap my head around some stuff from 2021 that was kind of just hanging around in my head, loose and unattached.

    1. That’s so awesome to hear. Not that things were unattached, but that it helped make some sense of things as we enter into the new year. 🙂

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