Usually when I reflect on a year gone by, it feels to me like a year has gone by. A lot of other people I know talk about how fast or slow time goes for them, but for me time typically feels like what it is.
Not this year, however. I was in Africa and Asia for the first six months and America for the last six. My mind can’t really comprehend that. I was in Tanzania in March? Really? And Thailand in June? C’mon now. Be serious.
This year has been one of the most formative years of my life – if not the most formative – because it’s when I started following Jesus through good and bad (as opposed to just the good.) On January 1 I wrote, “I’m feeling incredibly burdened with what Jesus is asking me to do. I’m scared because I know I’m coming to a breaking point, where I’ll actually commit.”
I think it’s no coincidence that I wrote that on January 1 – it’s a beautiful contrast to the the way I’m ending this year. And I was right, I was approaching a breaking point that would literally break my body and spirit and result in my unwavering commitment to Jesus.
It’s interesting when I read my diary entries leading up to my breaking point:
January 3: I’m completely exhausted. I’m hardly sleeping at night, my heart is hurting and I have nothing left in me to offer other people.
January 15: Again, I haven’t liked the person I’ve been as of late. Immature, flirty, ignoring the call on my life…I’m weak and stuck and can’t imagine any other way right now. I’m so scared to trust you.
January 16: Feeling so weird right now. Yesterday was hard because I was so tired. I don’t feel I’m making the most of every opportunity, and that frustrates me. I’d like to throw myself at the disposal of the church, I’d like to sit outside with Pastor J’s family every night, I’d like to better pursue my teammates, I’d like to read more, write more, learn more, converse more…I’m just too damn tired. I’m too tired to push myself. All I can do right now is pray. And pour my thoughts onto paper, listen to my iPod (Sufjan), hopefully go for for a tiring run later, get lost in a book; survive. Should I fast? Probably. Will I? Probably not. The last time I attempted to fast (yet failed miserably) really is a sign as to how I am as a person.
January 18: I woke up this morning after another dreadful night’s sleep. I felt defeated. Frustrated. Weak. Like something is after me. I thought about getting some sleep aid today, but I knew that wouldn’t solve the problem. Fasting flashed through my mind, and I knew it wasn’t coincidental. So I’m fasting today. And maybe onward.
[Later that day]: I’m physically wiped out. Also, emotionally spent. I must trust trust trust GOD help me trust that you are good. I’m wondering if I’ll even hear anything from God. Will my sleep be cured? Will I finally live out my calling? Will my focus be on you? Or will I fail. Again. Only time will tell.
I didn’t fail, and that fast was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. It broke my body down until I was writhing on the floor in pain. I didn’t know it at the time, but as I suffered in my flesh something in the spiritual realms shifted. And I’ve never been the same since.
I cried more this year than I have in years, probably more than all the time I spent as a red-faced infant. I guess that’s what happens when you allow God into all areas of your life. He killed me this year. If we allow him to, that’s what he does – he kills our sinful selves until we are reborn as a beautiful creation. But damn, it hurts.
It’s funny, in January I made a pact with some friends to keep what we called a “cry log.” Basically, we kept a log of how often we cried, how hard we cried and for what reason. I’m pretty sure the idea was my own – I knew I didn’t cry that much and I wanted to keep a record to know for sure. I thought it was so cool at the time, but now it sounds kind of weird, lol.
My cry log didn’t last long. I stopped in February because my entries began to look like this:
February 10 – boy stuff
February 11 – God/boy stuff
February 12 – God/boy stuff
February 14 – God/boy stuff
February 17 – God/boy stuff
…so I stopped keeping track. It was depressing. And it was not at all an accurate portrayal of how often I usually cried.
Basically, I had made a boy an idol in my life and eventually God was like STOP THAT. Well, he had been saying that the whole time – I just choose to ignore him. But like I said, after my fast something changed in me. So this time when God said STOP THAT I said OKAY, FINE. And then I cried a lot.
I remember standing by those smelly, African squatty potties on Valentine’s Day and sobbing over my broken heart (see cry log listed above.) Emily was there to comfort me, so I turned to her and said though my tears, “I’m absolutely terrified. Because I know from here on out I will obey whatever God asks me to do. And if it already hurts this much over something as silly as a boy, I can’t imagine what else he will call me to do and how much more my heart will be broken.”
I remember thinking about how I suffered physically when I deprived myself of food, and how much worse it felt to deprive myself of an unhealthy emotional attachment. I would’ve rather gone hungry.
In late spring I thought I had used up all my tears. There were times I wanted to cry to release all the emotion I was feeling, but I couldn’t. Inspired by Cameron Diaz in The Holiday, I would pretend to cry to see if it would help me really cry. I ended up staring at my dry face in the mirror, convinced I didn’t have any tears left in me.
How wrong I was.
This most recent season of life, meaning these past six months I’ve spent in the States, has produced a whole new crop of tears. In July I was able to cry again after getting into yet another fight with my mom, and I continued to cry all those times on the couch in the counselor’s office and in the car on the way home. After one particularly intense session I ran to the park at dusk, lay on the grass and stared at the sky. Tears dripped off my cheeks and I asked God why it all had to be so hard.
I threw myself on my bed and cried when the YMCA rejected me and I soaked the floor with my tears when Teach for America rejected me. I sobbed when my parasite antibiotics made me depressed for a week. There were times in the last few months when I cried because I felt isolated and alone and like no one in the world understood me.
So yeah, I’ve cried a lot this year. It’s been a hard year, but, as it so often goes, it’s also been a good year. It’s been good for many reasons, one of the main ones being that my journey led me to freedom. And now I’m addicted to God like a junkie.
I am loved and I am alive and I am happy for the most part. I’m ready for this year to end and I have high hopes for the one that is to come. I don’t think there will be as many tears. The Bible tells us there is a time for weeping and a time for laughing – I believe my time of tears is over and I’m ready to spend the next year slapping my knee and snorting through my nose in laughter.
Bring it on.