I’m so done with this year. I can’t wait for the clock to strike 12:00 on January 1 so I can finally say Buh-bye to 2013. Adios. Sayonara. Good riddance.
This year has been a doozy of a year for me and Chris—a doozy in a string of doozies. Life got ahold of our number a few years ago and has been unrelentless in its pursuit of us, tightening its iron-fisted grip year by year by year. While each of the 4½ years we’ve been together in wedded bliss has been difficult in its own way, Chris and I would both agree that this year has topped them all. It feels like life has run roughshod over us. We’ve seen the usual suspects—death, schedule changes, maddeningly frustrating work situations, and nagging health issues—but have also had new culprits added to the lineup. The gusts of change have disrupted our quiet, ordered life, and door after door after door has been slammed shut on hopes and aspirations. This year has left us frustrated, disheartened, and just plain exhausted.
I hope 2013 doesn’t let the door hit it on the way out.
The thing about years like this, though, is that they do not come without a purpose—there is some method to their madness … or there is a method to the Director behind the madness. I was reminded of this about 2 months ago while listening to a lesson in Dave Ramsey’s new financial series, The Legacy Journey. I was only half-listening at the time, paying more attention to the paint I was glopping over my toenails than I was to Ramsey’s message. But in the middle of talking about living with contentment, Ramsey said something that stopped my hand midswipe: “God is not necessarily concerned about changing your circumstances. He is concerned about shaping your character.”
Ramsey’s words reached through my computer speakers and grabbed hold of me—and they haven’t let go. They’ve been playing on repeat in my head for the past two months, echoing in the corner of my mind as more change has happened, as more challenges have presented themselves, as more doors have slammed shut. I like Ramsey, but I could do without having his Southern drawl sound in my head over and over and over.
The thing is, I’m not quite sure why Ramsey’s words have had such an impact. I’m a creature whose heart and soul are assuaged by a well-crafted string of words, so I have several go-to sayings for times like these: “Trust your journey,” “My king still has one more move,” Proverbs 3:5&6, James 1:2-4. Collectively, they sound the same tone: Have faith in God’s omniscience. And I’ve held on tightly to these sayings this year, engraving them on necklaces and posting them on my bathroom mirror with the expectation that these physical reminders undertake rescue missions when my heart and thoughts decide to become mired in frustration and gallivant off hand-in-hand with bitterness. Ramsey’s words don’t sound much different from my tried and trueds, but they’ve struck a slightly different chord with me.
Perhaps this has to do with the first line of the statement: “God is not necessarily concerned about changing your circumstances.” Much of my focus these past 12 months has been on circumstances, and I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time tussling with God over them. Why are they happening? What can we do to change them? Can You please change them? Why aren’t You changing them? Until Ramsey’s lesson, this broken record wasn’t getting answers—just a perpetuation of the circumstances. Ramsey’s words took the wind out of my blustery sails and reminded me that with God, it’s not about circumstances. Circumstances are just the means to an end. They’re what God uses to mold us into the shape we were designed to be and draw us closer to Him. Relient K put it perfectly in their song “Let It All Out”: And You said, “I know that this will hurt / But if I don’t break your heart then things will just get worse / If the burden seems too much to bear / Remember … / The end will justify the pain it took to get us there.”
This idea of being purposely put through the wringer is a tough pill to swallow, one that challenges the idea of God and puts a person’s faith to the test. What I like about Relient K’s lyrics is that they remind us we’re not swallowing that pill alone. “The end will justify the pain it took to get US there.”
The difference a single pronoun can make. God may be breaking our hearts, but He’s not doing so and then callously abandoning us (although it may seem like it at times). He’s breaking our hearts but sticking around and helping us sift through the aftermath, even carrying us through it, if it comes down to that. We just have to stop questioning and wrestling long enough to let Him.
And that’s my goal for 2014: to ask “Why?” less and say “Show me” more, to turn to God for help instead of a wrestling match. Ramsey’s words put me in my place. Change and challenges will most likely continue to present themselves in the new year, and there’s a possibility that doors may be slammed shut and deadbolted—but they’re out of my hands. My attitude, however, is not; my attitude is fully in my control. And it could use a swift kick in the butt. Excuse me while I go take care of that …