I can’t recall ever decidedly making any specific New Year’s Resolutions in the past. I can recognize, however, that there is something about the beginning of another calendar year which elicits a need to reflect on the events of the passing year and their effects. And by the same token, this annual occurrence also seems to stir up a need for deep consideration about how we would like the coming year to unfold, and then to resolutely decide the steps necessary to bring those desires to fruition.
Please know that I am not blind to the abundance of blessings of 2017 that I could, and certainly should, focus on. But it would be inauthentic of me not to share here that my broad-brush feeling about the year that has just ended is dismal from a faith and an inner spirit standpoint. My resolve was tested – and it often lost woefully to some skillful contenders last year.
Brené Brown is a researcher, a social scientist to be exact, and in my opinion – she’s a great storyteller gifted in bringing nerdy and lofty scientific concepts into bite-sized digestible layman's terms. She has written several books and given several Ted Talks to bring understanding and awareness around some intangible and hard-to-comprehend actualities of our human condition.
One of Brené’s nuggets of truth is “We are wired for struggle”. To be honest, I hate that idea, but I wholeheartedly recognize that it is an universal and inescapable truth handed down by God Himself.
No matter how I try to “rule-follow” my way through this life, I will not arrive at a different existence where I won’t experience trauma, or encounter crises and just plain old difficulties and problems.
The Struggle is real… and it is also unavoidable. To endure it and persevere to the other side of it requires a strong faith and steely resolve. I possessed neither of those in 2017.
I have a competitive nature, but have never been inside a boxing ring. As a matter of fact, I loathe it and any forms of it as a sport. But it does seem to offer the perfect analogy to convey how this past year went for me on the Faith-front. I am indeed relieved to see the bell ring out the end of 2017, and Happy to see the promise of a New Year. While many stepped up to be Challengers in the Struggles vs My Faith bouts throughout last year, I’ll just highlight two matches for you here:
Death vs My Faith.
One morning in January last year, seeing his name light up the screen and realizing that I hadn’t yet returned his call from the day before, I lightheartedly but apologetically answered the phone. I expected to hear his slow and booming, but equally lighthearted voice jovially and gracefully forgive me. Instead I heard the strongest man I’ve ever known softly and shakily utter that his mother was no longer on this earth. Maybe I should have been, but I wasn’t ready for his words. And though the conversation was brief, the reality of it broke both me and my heart as well as traumatized by Spirit ... for a good long while.
The Depths of Humanity vs My Faith
There hasn’t been just one specific exchange I can recount of this past year, but there has been enough current events that have left me shaking my head in dismay and severe disillusionment. In addition the curse of social media is that I’ve also been privy visibly to many of .... thoughts . Some of the concessions, and opinions I’ve seen, especially the ones made in God’s name (while not made directly toward me) have felt very much like personal assaults. This has created an undeniable crisis within me ... and it is still ongoing.
The Fight Card for 2017 was stacked. My Faith went many rounds swinging and counter punching away, but to an overall end result of proving to be the weaker opponent this year.
Maybe you assume that this lends itself to a doubt in God, and I assure you that isn’t the case. I wasn’t questioning His plan. But realizing you are not as strong in your faith as you thought brings an entirely different layer to the Struggle.
The finality of death, or being a witness to the depths of humanity, or anything that shakes you to your core beliefs really – they all have a way of insisting that you check-in with yourself and how “Ok” you and your beliefs actually are.
These events cause your brain to formulate hard questions about this one short life you’ve been given and how you are going about living it.
Your Beautiful Mind can be the toughest opponent you’ll ever come up against.
At its core, the center and powerhouse of my personal Christian faith has always been Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV):
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
I’ve had to hold this past years’ events, and any Struggle I’ve ever faced really, up to that scripture. But when that isn’t enough to knockout the opposition, and if I do not wish to become weary and defeatable, I must consistently exercise my heart and mind to focus on other truths like 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 (NIV):
"For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”
Yes, sometimes you need to fight for your faith. And if I see any value in being resolute about something in 2018, let it be that I train my mind and to strengthen my Resolve - because God’s word implores it.
“Be prepared. You’re up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it’s all over but the shouting you’ll still be on your feet. Truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation are more than words. Learn how to apply them. You’ll need them throughout your life. God’s Word is an indispensable weapon. In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long. Pray for your brothers and sisters. Keep your eyes open. Keep each other’s spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out.” - Ephesians 6: 13-18 (MSG)