Happy New Year’s, Friends & Family!
I don’t know what your year was like. I don’t know what successes or failures you’ve faced. I don’t know what joys you may have broadcast or darkness you may have hidden. Here’s what I do know: 1) You are never alone in your ups or downs, 2) 2020 is here and with it, opportunities to resolve, renew, refresh, replenish, apologize, forgive, openly give and receive blessings and unapologetically love the people around you. Is there magic that comes when the calendar page flips? Nah. Or is there…?
Here’s my prediction for what lies ahead: The 20’s will roar again.
I believe this decade will open doors of discussion that have never been opened before. We will savor the lessons learned, the depth and the fullness of aged wine, quickly recognize and pour out wine that has turned and serves no medicinal purpose, and allow ourselves to stretch and grow with new wine as it expands. Ready your glass.
I believe this decade will produce a new breed of leaders. Our Middle and High Schoolers who eagerly watched the last presidential election due to the entertainment value, not because they truly cared about the direction of our country, will grow into leaders who are unapologetically direct and will vote ridiculousness off the island. Their definition of ridiculous is what we need to be concerned about.
I believe my generation will have to stand up in order to lead our children’s generation well. All of our tiptoeing, political correctness, and eager people-pleasing has made us weak and ineffective. We have shaky knees and stuttering words as we attempt to ease the angst of our parents’ generation while we appease the Millennials- the generation who follows ours’. The Millennials will rise to be mighty in darkness and in light. Our children will be stepping into the Millennials’ shoes, not our own. We need to help shape those shoes with truth and love.
The 20’s will indeed roar again. What part will we choose to play? What part will you play?
For myself personally, this past decade has been a stone soup of sorts. Most of the ingredients have been amazing, but in my ignorance, I have also allowed the wrong ingredients to be throw into the pot, much to my own detriment. Confession: some of the worst ingredients have been thrown in by me! We do this to ourselves in our 20’s and 30’s. We all throw in various ingredients and at some point have to take a hard look at what is in the pot as what was good for us then will not be good for us later.
A couple of my these ingredients:
Striving. There is a striving that is healthy and good but just one step too far and that same striving will eat a person’s sanity. We can strive to be the best version of who God made us to be. We can embrace the disciplines that require us to be sacrificial of our time, talents and treasures in order to be our healthiest spiritually, physically, and emotionally. We relinquish the good for the great. The danger of striving too much is that we forget the importance of rest, rejuvenation, play, creativity, spontaneous get-togethers that don’t have an agenda or purpose, and quiet space.
We can also strive for the wrong things. We strive to maintain a certain reputation with certain people. We strive to keep peace in places where there is no peace. We strive to please others so they won’t gossip about us or judge us. We strive to keep up appearances. We strive to keep the people around us happy. Worst of all, we strive to earn God’s love and favor. I’m guilty of all those things and worse. I know in my mind that God’s love and favor is not earned – it’s a gift. And still I stumble, as many of us do, to daily walk in light of this. 2020 was a year where God called me out on the waters of His grace alone (his undeserved favor) where I was faced with the reality of my unhealthy strivings. I’ve watched a house of glass that I have built, clung to, and patched with scotch tape, year after year, crash. Along with tremendous grief comes tremendous relief and peace. In the cleanup process, cuts have happened and, oh, how they bleed. But healing always comes when we allow it. Hurrying the process isn’t helpful and only results in uglier scars. I’ve learned this lesson the hard way many times over. The rebuilding process has begun but it’s no longer my materials and to my design. I bend my knee to The Builder and Master Architect of my life.
Religiosity. I’ve always been a square peg, I suppose. I did love those star charts in Sunday school where I could measure my goodness against the goodness of others. I don’t remember at what age I realized that I would never be the top star achiever. I would never be as good as someone else appears. My family wasn’t available to go to all the activities and I couldn’t memorize as many verses as some of the others. I tried, oh, how I tried. I just never quite measured up. Competition and comparison are constant beasts we must face and fight daily to avoid discouragement and depression.
Somewhere along the way, I began swinging a sledgehammer. I recognized the lie of the star charts and began hammering away at the wall of religious expectations, even if I couldn’t quite articulate what they were at the time. Things like reading ones Bible for a certain amount of time every day, reading more books than the next person, wearing an appropriate amount of makeup or avoiding certain hairstyles to avoid coming across as vain, etc. I’ve bumped into those walls a time or two and continue to fight the temptation to people-please. The problem with these walls is that they always rebuild under a different leader, a different denomination, a different sect of belief. Religiosity will always weave it’s way into the hearts of men as it’s so much easier to ‘do’ the right things then to live in light of the freedom we have as followers of Christ – a freedom which gives us permission to choose right or left, up or down, but always guides us towards Him and His Truth and unconditional love.
I recognized the disconnect between how Jesus treated the worst of sinners – with love, truth, and open arms – and how many Christians would talk about or treat the worst of sinners – like the worst of sinners. I began swinging my hammer against this religious wall of separation – the ‘us’ vs. the ‘them’. And I haven’t stopped swinging.
Isn’t it ironic that the same girl who fiercely fights against the ugly and thick walls of cultural religiosity to protect the simple beauty of the Gospel of Christ is the same girl who built and has to resist building more glass walls of religious striving? Unhealthy striving is simply a different brand of religiosity – the religiosity that I unknowingly threw in my pot or pretended was never there in the first place.
It’s ridiculously true that we will manufacture our own religions and religiosity, even when we don’t believe in God. Our hearts will always worship something or someone. When that thing fails, Lord help us. Seriously.
Whoever you are, allow me to encourage you to let go of the things that are secondary in life that may feel of utmost importance in the moment. Allow the false to fall away and the truth to replace it. You will be okay. You are okay. Your value was given at conception – it’s not based on perception.
Be fierce and roar in the 20’s.