It’s been a year of chaos. Even as I thought about writing this my brain felt cloudy. I struggle every December with whether to fight or embrace the nostalgia of the New Year. I make resolutions but I hate resolutions and then I break resolutions because I hate them and because I lack discipline. Each year I catch myself thinking, “this is the year.” The year I do this or feel that or find this or something. I think we love moments like this – moments we get to restart or reset. Moments that are drunk with the bubbly hope that comes from both endings and beginnings. So we wear sequins and drink champagne and kiss people and watch giant sparkly balls drop from the sky to celebrate the moment, the restart, the reset.
It’s fun. I get caught up in it and stress about an outfit and start making mental lists of things I’ll do next year that will make this one different. And then I hate myself for doing all of those things because I remember that it’s really just another day. One number changes on the calendar but work and Tuesdays and disappointments still exist.
I’ve done it this year already and it’s not even Christmas. I turn 25 in a few weeks and that feels like something significant. And there’s been a lot of change since the last New Years Eve, a lot of chaos, a lot of endings to things that I didn’t expect, so it’s easy to be hopeful for 2015. Hopeful for less change (or better change), less chaos, better endings, or no endings at all. But then I remember that it’s just another year with a different number. And the hope feels pointless, foolish even.
So then the battle in my mind rages on; the New Year is either all glitter or just another day. It’s either fresh and hopeful or the same chaotic disillusionment. Are we toasting to new beginnings or drowning sorrows, year after year, in champagne?
Life seems so full of contradictions like these. A day or event or conversation can swell to the size of the universe and yet it is true that life is but a mist. I am wicked and selfish and deserving of death and yet it is true that the God of the universe calls me by name. Sadness can get so heavy that it’s hard to open my eyes and yet it is really remarkably true that a sweater and a book can settle my soul.
The contrasts can be exhausting. They get confusing and chaotic. And they play out relentlessly, over and over as we tumble through the days and the months.
As I look back at this year I see nothing but them.
The year was horrible and wonderful.
Desperately difficult and full of grace.
I felt the joy of raw community and the fracturing depths of loneliness.
I embraced wild, frazzled dreams and took steps towards them, however tiny.
And tasted sour, harsh discouragement, carrying the weight of it, however foolishly.
I was strange, sensitive, sorry.
I thought deeply, despairingly, dangerously.
I laughed so hard that my face started to twitch.
And cried so hard that it was scary.
I lived impractically, impulsively and then prayerfully and patiently.
I felt elegant and dowdy, daring and paralyzed by fear, indignant and humbled by the Spirit, often all in the same day.
I felt like a fraud. At times because I was one. And at times because shame is a liar and grace is a fight.
I wept over mercy. And cursed over lost chap stick. Both more than once.
I wondered about the gospel, bathed in it, ran from it, forgot it, and then doubled over in remembrance.
I struggled ferociously with depression. Every day. All the time.
And in the midst of that, in the moments of God’s sweetest grace to me, I fell more in love with little bits of life, too.
Like words and cooking and my city and pomegranates.
I lived in stomach-shredding despair. And in grace upon grace upon grace.
All in a year. All in a collection of days that mean nothing and everything.
The chaos and the hope. The glitter and the sadness. The champagne and the bitter taste of sorrow. The sin and the grace. The sinner and the Savior.
And as I sit here in reflection I feel all of it again. I am grateful for this year and so desperately hopeful that this next one will be different. And it’s just hard to reconcile it all. How do we sit under the umbrella of such opposing thoughts? How do we walk in the understanding of how precious are our days and yet how fleeting are our lives? How do we feel both overwhelmed by the world and underwhelming as a being? Both terrible and redeemed, both destitute and lavished in love?
I don’t think I really know. Yet they are all simultaneously true and so it must be that this is just how it works. And so in the midst of everything changing and everything contradicting itself, my thoughts turn frantically to the only thing constant – Christ and his gospel and his goodness to his people.
And may they stay there, fixed, fearful, and full of awe.
It’s just a number on a calendar. And yet we will celebrate with glitter and champagne because its fun and it’s a moment worth celebrating. But may the hope that we ring in at midnight this year be not on the futile thought that “this will be the year,” and instead on the beauty and grace and mystery of the only constant amidst the chaos.
“We want. Life leaks. Desires are disappointed. And God, our Father, remains eternally good.” (Jen Pollock Michel – Teach Us To Want)
Happy New Years, friends. Champagne for everyone!