One of the reasons I started this blog was to remind women that we too are wonderfully and cheerfully made in the spectacular image of God, and that you can both love God and celebrate that. As many of us are reflecting on another New Year, I thought these words by Sara Stroman might encourage you:
“In 2016, drop the mantras, the goal making, the positivity memes and anything else that is making you feel like everything is awesome.
Instead, explore your light and dark. Find the person you want to be, not should be; through failure, success, broken hearts, too many nachos, jobs you hate, etc. Most importantly, find love for yourself.
Find compassion for this world and stop tolerating shit. Be creative or help someone creatively.
Learn to really breathe the air and pick up the raw animal scent of what your intuition is telling you. Don’t apologize. Don’t ask for forgiveness (unless you hurt someone).
If you must have a mantra, make it simple, “everything touches everything.”
Remember that all those nice and positive quotes are to motivate you, but this is your life and unless you start figuring out your life by way of you, those quotes and mantras are just nice reminders of what can be, not what is.”
She puts it bluntly, but I think she is correct: we have to get to know ourselves, what makes us tick, before we can be of any use to anyone. One of the first rules of ministry is to not “bleed all over the people,” which can happen if you don’t know what your own triggers are. Like they tell you on the plane, put the oxygen mask on yourself first. Of course, self-reflection and identifying our own growing edges, especially our growing edges with God, can trigger some anxiety. What exactly does Christian growth look like?
Looking at the missing years of Jesus may offer some guidance. Not much is known about what happened to Jesus in the years between his birth, and when he called his first disciples. The gospels are not biographies about Jesus; they do not provide us with a chronological timeline of Jesus’ formative years nor his adolescence. Rather, they jump from the manger to taking cover in Egypt to an incident when little boy Jesus got lost on a trip to Jerusalem. When Jesus was twelve, he and his family traveled from Nazareth to Jerusalem for the festival of the Passover. On the way back, Mary and Joseph realized Jesus was not with them. They rushed back to Jerusalem and found him in the Jerusalem Temple, sitting among the religious leaders, listening to them and asking them questions. Jesus reminds his parents that “he must be in God’s house.” And the story ends by telling us “Jesus increased in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favor” (Luke 2: 52 NRSV). The next we hear about Jesus is at his baptism by John the Baptist. But the verse does tell us what Jesus was doing in the meantime: he grew. He grew in wisdom and stature. In other words, Jesus matured. Isn’t that what God wants from all of us? To learn, to listen, and to mature? To answer my own question, Christian growth looks like this: progress. The things that make you the angriest should make you less angry over time. That’s progress. Instead of kicking yourself or feeling like a failure every time you get enraged when someone cuts you off in traffic, focus on the progress you’re making. You didn’t yell back at them this time, right? (I fully acknowledge that I am telling on myself here.) Like Jesus grew in wisdom, we too are expected to grow, and to put greater distance between our growing edges: day by day, month by month, and year by year. To seek progress, and not perfection. Everybody’s journey is different. I hope that 2016 is a year that you celebrate yourself regularly. I hope you prioritize your own happiness and take good care of yourself. I hope you remember that both loving yourself and learning about yourself are revolutionary acts, so necessary in times like these. Blessed be.