The thing about a new year is that I used to think it was a new beginning and that I could forget about the previous year, etc., but with 2020 safely behind us now, I realize there are still lessons learned that I want to keep in mind. Here they are, in no particular order.
- When I’m tired, I feel the need to make myself feel useful. I am useful, as a matter of fact, but when I’m mentally tired and dejected, I try to busy myself to make myself feel better. This usually leads to a waste of time online. Volunteer work, for example, is all good and helpful, but not particularly healthy if it comes from a place of wanting to make me feel better about myself. What brings me rest when I’m in this state is time spent reading the Bible, journaling, and then reading (which eventually leads to sleep).
- My best state of existence is in dependence on God. I’ve mentioned this before, but this is probably the hardest part of Christianity, the acceptance that we need Christ in our lives. Without Christ, there will always be something missing in our lives. With Christ, though, my life has focus. Ravi Zacharias reminds us:
Gratitude without a person to be grateful is an incomplete thought. As G.K. Chesterton said, “If a child has Santa Claus to thank for putting candy in his stocking, have I nobody to thank for putting two feet in mine?” To whom are you ultimately grateful?Zacharias, R. (2012). Why Jesus? Rediscovering his truth in an age of mass marketed spirituality. FaithWords.
When I make the proof of my gratitude to God the focus of my life, in other words, the praise of Jesus Christ, then everything falls in afterwards. (This might sound as if Christians are made to just sit there singing their days away, but this isn’t true either; we are each designed to bring praise to our Creator in different ways.)
3. I need to be gentle. Turns out being gentle when I’m angry is not something that comes easily to me. (Somehow my husband manages it). In fact, I come from a whole family of people who get emotionally punchy when they’re upset. But I’ve realized that this is no good for the people I’m living with, who are more easily affected by things like tone of voice, stomping, etc. (The question is, who’s the real toddler of our house?) God has been faithful, changing my temper by leaps and bounds so that in the past couple months, I haven’t really shouted in anger at all. For anyone who’s seen me upset, they’ll say that’s pretty big. So here’s working forward to being more gentle, to everyone around me, as well as to myself.
4. God will establish my work. This actually ties back to lesson 1. Instead of trying to make myself feel useful, I have to remember that there is no result I can guarantee all on my own. Again, this goes against typical human desire: we want to be self-reliant, we want to be in control. But Psalm 127 tells us:
Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labour in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city, the guards stand in vain.Psalm 127:1. NIV.
Whatever good I have done, I attribute it to God. Now this is not to say that I can drop everything by the wayside, or give any endeavour a 50% effort because “God works in the end anyway.” I am still called to act as a workman approved by God, being a good steward of all the resources and talents He has given me. I must do excellent work, but the results are up to God. A simple example would be my growing work in writing. I never thought my writing skills would be professionally useful, but 2020 has certainly shown me otherwise.
5. A large part of my current ministry is serving my family. I have a number of role models ahead of me who somehow manage to juggle this alongside work, other ministries, and other volunteering, etc. but I am just starting out. Ministering to both my husband and child is a very different task from simply ministering to my husband, so I will just have to accept that, until I find a sort of flow to things, I will not be able to be involved in everything else right away. But there will be a time for all that, eventually.
So, there they are, five lessons from 2020 that I hope to keep throughout 2021.