I've been trying to write a blog post for almost two months and words just won't come. Honestly, the election broke me in ways I wasn't prepared for and writing has seemed too hard since then. Writing has always been the place where I worked out my thoughts. I don't write after I know what I want to say, I write to figure out what I want to say. The reality of coming to terms with the swirling thoughts in my head has been too daunting, so I've avoided it.
This year has held big things for me- getting accepted to and deciding to go to Seminary, quitting the job that I loved, leading two mission trips, traveling to the United Kingdom, moving across the country, and my parents moving to Ethiopia. It was full of beautiful sights and once in a lifetime experiences. It was a year where I learned to try new things and be my own person. It was also a year when I watched my hero loose the most important job to an unqualified, bigotry-spewing, bully. I can't even begin to describe how much that eclipsed my reflections of this year.
There have been so many incredible artists, performers, and celebrities that have died this year that it's practically become a meme of how terrible 2016 has been. With each celebrity who suddenly passes away, social media explodes with mourning. There have been so many terrible things and tragic deaths- both famous and personal- and it's hard to see above the mire and muck.
How can I quantify this world-changing, devastating, beautiful turn around the sun? The familiar words of Rent come to mind- "how do you measure a year?"
I don't want the message of 2016 to be "everything is terrible and all the great people died." I just refused to believe that. I ran across a tweet a few weeks ago that reframed things for me:
Maybe 2016 is the year a lot of heroes were born and we don't know yet.— Maureen Johnson (@maureenjohnson) December 25, 2016
This is what hope looks like. In the midst of a bleak midwinter, when darkness surrounds and there is no guarantee of good things to come, hope says, "I still believe." We find hope in the same place we find faith- in the lack of certainty, on the shaky ground. Hope is not being certain, it's an expectation that goodness will come, even in the midst of uncertainty. I have hope that 2016 may be remembered as the birth year of great women and men. I have hope that seeds were planted that will produce incredible fruit someday. I have hope, not in spite of the darkness, because of it. The darkness night is before the dawn, and I still believe the sun will come up on a new day.
This year I began a huge step in pursuing my calling- I started Seminary and entered in the ordination process in the Presbyterian Church (USA). When I began school, I remarked at what a huge gift it is to get to learn about God for the next 3 years. What a gift! I loved my undergraduate studies and I am so excited about what is ahead in graduate school. With a semester behind me, I'm more sure than ever of my calling. I cannot wait to be a pastor. I cannot wait to say the words of institution- to rip the bread and pour the wine, to baptize someone's child, to counsel someone in their grief or lead a session meeting. I am so passionate about my calling and so excited about the journey to get there.
I love this world. I look around and think,
This is my Creator's world.
O let me ne'er forget
That though the wrong seems oft so strong,
God is the ruler yet.
This is my Mother's world:
why should my heart be sad?
The Lord is King; let the heavens ring!
God reigns; let the earth be glad!
In the midst of a bleak and terrible season where hate and violence won the battle, I have hope. I love this world and those that live in it. I am slowly learning to love those who don't love me (and certainly don't love the people I love). I love Creation in all its forms- this earth and those who inhabit it. I am in the long processing of becoming who God is creating me to be and I love it. I love this world and I'm not done fighting for it. In fact, I've just begun.
How do I measure 2016? I'll measure it in love. In the times when my church family surrounded me with prayers and blessings, when they gave me gifts that showed how deeply they knew and cared for me. When friends went the extra mile to care for me from thousands of miles away, and the loving words from distant parents. This year was full of abounding love from my Creator and from those in my life. This was a hard year, but as I always say, I can do hard things.