I don’t know how 2017 went for you, but mine was a total rollercoaster, so to commemorate my crazy rollercoaster year, here are 17 things I learned in 2017 (and pictures to commemorate the moments in which I learned them).
- Your value is indisputable. You are fearfully and wonderfully made – no one can tell you otherwise. I realized I am the one who often questions my value because other people treat me a certain way, I don’t like how I look, or I said the wrong thing, but it’s important to remember that other people’s opinions are just opinions and so are yours. The only one who can make factual statements about your value is God, and what He has said is quite flattering – “How precious are your thoughts about me, O God. They cannot be numbered! I can’t even count them; they outnumber the grains of sand!” (Psalm 139) Your value is indisputable.
- People like you. I know this seems silly, but I’ve always struggle to actually believe that people like me! Questioning my value has always taken a prominent place in my heart, and how can you believe other people value you if you don’t value yourself? You are valuable, therefore, don’t be surprised when other people treat you as such. Maybe you haven’t felt like other people like you because you haven’t found the right people. That’s okay – be encouraged because when you find the right people, it’s awesome. People like you because you are very likeable. Know that you are likeable, it’s not a pride thing, it’s a truth thing. God says you’re freaking awesome – that’s a fact, my friend. You are freaking awesome, and there are other people who know that to be true!
- Rest is really important. I mean, REALLY important, like a lot. Not taking time to rest is destructive. You can’t run on fumes forever. Collapse is inevitable when you don’t take time to rest. “Be still, and know that I am God!” (Psalm 46:10) That’s a command friends – be still! Don’t fill your schedule so full that you don’t have time to rest. Just sit and be. Sit and be in His presence. That is fullness of peace right there. So, rest – it’s really important.
- Anxiety does not define your character or your future. Maybe you can relate, maybe not, but I have anxiety and I let it define me as a person. When people ask, “Who are you?” the word “anxious” is part of my descriptor. But the only thing describing me should be the King of kings. Child of God – bam! That’s what defines us! Anxiety has controlled my identity for too long. Maybe depression, family, friends, relationships, or something else has defined your identity. Don’t stay there – because your true definition of being is rooted in something much greater than any of those things. You are not defined by anything but Him (and as we already discussed, He has a very high opinion of you). “The more we let God take over, the more truly ourselves we become.” – C.S. Lewis –
- Art is a lot of fun. Seriously. Art is fun – drawing, photography, music, writing… the list goes on. Creative expression is so freeing! Creating is imitation of our perfect Father! We were made to create – the desire to do so is sewn into the very fabric of our being. That’s amazing!! There is so much life in creating; plus, it really is a lot of fun.
- Healing is possible. I’ve always questioned whether God would really heal my heart of the many things that have beat it up over and over again. He will. He has. And it’s so, so good! His healing hand is unlimited in its power and faithfulness. Be a willing vessel, and healing will come – just posture your heart and prepare for breakthrough.
- Changing relationships don’t have to mean the end of the relationship. Sometimes, God puts people in our lives for a season, for a moment, or for a lifetime, and that mandates that relationships meant to last a season have to experience a dynamic change as God is working in both people’s lives. Sometimes the change is hard, sometimes the change is easy, but it always, always will end up working for the good of those who love God.
- Feelings are not facts. Okay, so, I know (almost) everyone knows this, and I knew it before this year, but the reality of it’s weight has struck me hard in the last few months. Emotions are not facts, but they are real – they are pointers to our pain, hopes, dreams, fears, and experiences. To quote this from Jordan Verner for the 50th time in the last three days, “Emotions are messages and those wise enough will spend the time required to decipher them.”
- Traveling is really neat, and you should travel as much as you can. I know it sounds cliché, but there is something so amazing about going other places, meeting new people, and experiencing new things. Traveling has really opened my eyes to understand more about the greatness of our God! You can see really cool places on Instagram every day, but it isn’t even a blip on the amazement scale when compared to the awe of actually being there. So go out and see creation! You won’t be disappointed.
- Self-pity is no place to live. Self-pity is one of the greatest forms of selfishness, like, ever. It’s moping about your situation because you’re in a bad place. There’s nothing wrong with recognizing you’re in a situation that sucks, but when that becomes all you talk about and you’re constantly in a crappy mood because of your situation, it’s just dumb. I’ve found myself wallowing in self-pity far too many times this year, and I think it’s time to act more like Paul – even in prison he was rejoicing. So – rejoice! (It’s a much better way to live.)
- To quote the great C.S. Lewis – “To love at all is to be vulnerable.” I can promise you two things if you love people: you’ll get hurt and you’ll be filled with joy. Love is a paradox because loving can set us up for hurt, but Love is the ultimate, unbreakable thing. The greatest thing is Love – it’s who God is. When we love, we’re imitating Love, and think of how often God has been hurt by us. But yet, He loves us enough to get hurt. Love other people – don’t be naïve to the possibility of pain, but be sensitive to the Spirit as you walk in looking at what it looks like to love well. As believers, we have been given the honor of suffering, loving, with Christ.
- To continue this theme of love, here’s another quote from C.S. Lewis – “Love is never wasted, for its value does not rest upon reciprocity.” The people who need love the most will often show that they need it in ways that are not easy to love. Love them anyways. They need it, and right now, maybe they’re not in a place where they are capable of loving back, so love them all the more. It’s never a waste to show someone else they are valuable, even if it seems like they don’t care.
- Let go. Let go of everything you think you should be, and let God make you into exactly what He designed you to be. “God you always give as much as I can let go, so I will spend all of my time learning how to lose it all, and I will keep my eyes wide open, and I will make this heart of mine hallow for You. When I finally let go of everything, you take it all. When I step off the edge of my mind, You catch my fall… I’ll show You all my maps, please would you tear them up. Before I had this plan to make up who I was, and before I was afraid to leave this heart undone.” (the SLOW) Let go, and He will fill you and do immeasurably more than we could ask or imagine according to His power that is at work within us.
- God will reveal potential in you, but will not fulfill it for you. You actually have to press in to God if you want to live up to your full potential. I think I’ve always had this idea in the back of my mind that God would just wave His finger and I would magically be doing exactly what He designed me to. Unfortunately, that’s not how it works. I have to be chasing after the heart of God for the fullness of my potential to unfold. God does a lot, but He isn’t going to force me to be something I’m not willing to work for.
- You can’t be everything for everyone. For my people-pleasing friends out there (and myself), trying to live up to everyone else’s expectations is impossible. Be you, and love people well, but don’t try to be everything for everyone – it just doesn’t work that way. You’re not built to be life support for your 50 “closest” friends.
- Heartbreak sucks, but it is bearable, and it grows you. At this point, it’s blatantly obvious that I absolutely love C.S. Lewis, and he addresses this idea quite nicely – “Experience: that most brutal of teachers. But you learn, my God do you learn.” Heartbreak does suck, but you learn, and you grow, and you push through, and you make it out on the other side stronger than you could possibly imagine. “Getting over a painful experience is much like crossing the monkey bars. You have to let go at some point to move forward.” (I’m sure you can guess who said that).
- No time is ever wasted when we are in pursuit of the will of God. No time is ever wasted in growing your relationship with God. There is always fruit when you are seeking Him. “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:33)
To conclude, 2017 has been absolutely insane, and I expect I will be able to say something similar at the end of next December. So, here’s to 2018 – a year of adventure and revival.
I’ll leave you with this: go courageously into the year, knowing the Father of Lights is constant. And remember:
“On the back of Satan’s neck is a nail-scarred footprint.”
– C.S. Lewis –
Our God is good, and I can’t wait to see what He’s done when we get to this time next year.