To make something beautiful from ashes, something has to burn. And 2017 has been a wildfire. The first half of the year was absolutely heart wrenching as I felt like my life was being pulled to pieces. You all know that story, so I won’t dredge up the sordid details. I wallowed for a while, struggling to pull my head from my self-pity and spending many of my days vacillating between too numb to move and too overwhelmed to breathe.
But here’s the thing… God isn’t finished here. My story isn’t done.
I have been reflecting lately on the story of Joseph. I heard two awesome sermons about his life over the past month and they’ve both really impacted me. The point made in the first one was that there is a gap between a dream and the fulfilment of it. Joseph dreamed that his brothers would all bow down to him, and then went through the ordeal of almost being killed by his brothers, slavery, wrongful accusations, and extended prison time before being made Pharaoh’s right hand man. This doesn’t mean that God was not working, this meant there was a process. Joseph had to stand firm in the gap between the conception of a dream and it’s fulfilment. Just because the everything seems dark does not mean it’s over. And the second sermon I heard harped on what Joseph tells his brothers after his father dies. “You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good,” he says in Genesis 50. God is sovereign over evil. He uses it for good. This truth is repeated in the New Testament when Paul says, “For we know that all things work together for good for those who love God, to those who are called according to His purposes.”
Evil happened in 2017, no doubt. Sin destroys whatever it touches and we live in a fallen world. But I serve a Risen Saviour who has conquered sin and I am wearing the battle armour He provided with the gift of the Holy Spirit. I will not be defeated.
In Peter Jackson’s adequate adaptation of The Two Towers, Sam gives a speech that has stuck with me especially during this time. Sam and his companion Frodo are hiding in the city of Minas Tirith where they have been taken prisoner (which isn’t in the book, but the speech is excellent so I will temporarily allow it) as Nazgul, intent on killing the hobbits and stealing the Ring, attack the city. Frodo despairingly says that he doesn’t know what he’s doing and Sam cries that he doesn’t either, that they shouldn’t even be here on this quest, yet here they are. And then he says this:
“It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something, even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn’t. They kept going, because they were holding on to something. That there is some good in this world, and it’s worth fighting for.”
I’m fighting and I’m not turning back. It’s fitting that two of the highlights of my year included the beginning of a new family and a physical battle. I talked about the beginning of the family in my last blog post when I retold the story of my brother’s wedding and how God showed me that I was not alone through that, but the second is about the obstacle course race I ran. In August I ran my first Spartan race. I ran it literally two days after the divorce was finalised in court and it was the hardest I’ve ever worked my body. I’m not really an athlete, but I pushed myself and came out all bruised and bloodied and sweaty with dirt and mud (and spiders… don’t ask) in places I didn’t know I had. And I just remember lying on the grass by the finish line and crying. It was strangely symbolic… the four miles and what felt like countless obstacles felt like physical manifestations of the mental gymnastics I’d been playing as I struggled with the bizarre circumstances God has been bringing me through. While hiking up a hillside with a sandbag on my shoulders, my mind turned once again to my favourite passage in Isaiah: “Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” (Isaiah 40:30-31)
2017 started with me feeling unloved, unwanted, and abandoned. But God has been with me every step of the way. Here at the end of the year, I know I am loved unfathomably and will never be abandoned by God my Father. The coming years will surely not be easy, but I am resolved that I will spend them serving the Lord, clinging closely to His promises and following His commands. No matter how many curve balls life throws at me or how much evil seeks to tear me down, I will give glory to God and strive to honour Him by tackling the tasks at hand. One step at a time, trusting Him to sustain me. I’ll get through.
But boy, I’m glad to put 2017 behind me.