For all the air that’s in your lungs
For all the joy that is to come
For all the things that you’re alive to feel
Just let the pain remind you hearts can heal
And by 2017, I mean the overall suffering endured by so many this year in every community. We’ve suffered in our quiet, personal worlds and in the world at large. The greeting A-Dieu, I learned in my philosophy class, literally means “to God.” It is a sending off to God—not a forgetting or a finality, but a goodbye placed in greater hands. It is a remembrance even as we move forward. Our suffering will be remembered this year, but it is time to say a-dieu—to begin the process of renewal and redemption. And what more perfect time for this than the New Year??
The legendary “Sophomore slump” is bitterly real. Especially in the climate of the second half of 2017, it seemed intensified. Personally, I went through a painful hip injury and long recovery, felt a lack of passion for journalism and writing (more painful than the hip, honestly), loneliness, sadness about everything happening in the world—and the worst was that God felt achingly quiet in it all. When I prayed, my words felt hollow. When I tried to worship in song, it felt inauthentic. During mass, kneeling before the Eucharist, I felt a gaping emptiness.
Books became a kind of refuge. (Well, and my friends. How blessed I am to have friends who listen. Listen and share in that brokenness.) The two writers that made me feel less alone were Kierkegaard and Merton. The way they spoke of suffering, hope, and love was, as I see now, God’s way of reaching me. When all else failed, God met me in books I had to read for class. How good you are, Lord. Thanks for that.
Seeing people be honest and transparent about how this year has been hard for them has been refreshing. Even so, living in the world can be so, so disheartening. Where was God this year? In the hurricanes, fires, earthquakes, shootings, harassments, homelessness, refugees, trafficking?
He was in it. He is the sorrowing one, the victim of violence, the refugee, the homeless one, the enslaved one, the poor one. He is the one who lost his home in the hurricanes and fires. He is the one in the streets. The world is fallen, and yet, in that fallenness exists a God who dwells with the ones who suffer that fallenness most radically.
The Bible is saying to us the whole time: Don’t think that God is as simple as you are. He’s in the places you would never expect him to be. We lose a bit of that in the English translation. When Moses at the burning bush says to God, “Who are you?” God says to him three words: “Hayah asher hayah.” Those words are mistranslated in English as “I am that which I am.” But in Hebrew, it means “I will be who or how or where I will be,” meaning, Don’t think you can predict me. I am a God who is going to surprise you. —Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks
Oh Lord, we are so in need of you. I am so in need of you. I struggle with who I am so terribly. Help me, I usually feel like I’m losing to the enemy. I don’t know how Lord, but I’m 20 years old now. The future is coming too fast and I am afraid. The closer I get to my future the more ambiguous it seems. I’m less certain about journalism, less certain about marriage, less certain about what I always expected. All I know is I am in radical spiritual need and I want to help people. As much as I want my writing to be widely read and admired by many (I admit I have, for a while, believed that to be the highest form of success in this world) but I see how empty that is. More than recognition and praise, I want truth and a chance to go deeper into reality. Please help me Jesus. Thank you for continuing to wreck my life.
Thank you for the things that make me sad, that make me frustrated. These grow my resilience. I think my battle is not that deep, intense suffering happens to me, but it happens to the ones I love, so in a sense, it happens to me. If I could take on my friend’s pain right now Lord, I would. But I can’t. But I can love. You already take it Lord. So much to take on this year, but you do it willingly just like always. How is it possible that you would die for me, that you would be tortured for me—me who spends her time slothing on social media, wishing she were thinner, wishing she were prettier, wishing she were better at things. No, you take the broken human I am—body and spirit, and tell me I am loved, and you invite me into reality—just as I am, right now.
I contribute to the pain and suffering of the world—I contributed to the heartbrokenness of 2017—when I failed to love. When I recklessly and mindlessly sinned, judged others and myself, turned a blind eye to someone in need when I had the resources (time, talent, or treasure) to help. I contributed to this—I have caused violence.
This miracle of goodness, this love of neighbor, is the last and most beautiful thing left for us. “When all misfortune befell on the human race, hope still remained” (Kierkegaard). You make beautiful things out of the dust, you make beautiful things out of us. This is about hope. Let us reflect on 2017, how we can change, and then bid adieu. Beautiful things are to come, no matter where you’re at right now.
But this ‘You shall sorrow’ is both true and beautiful. I do not have the right to become insensitive to life’s pain, because I shall sorrow; but neither do I have the right to despair, because I shall sorrow; and neither do I have the right to stop sorrowing, because I shall sorrow. So it is with love… You shall preserve love, and you shall preserve yourself and by and in preserving yourself preserve love… where you do not know what to do, there the commandment will counsel so that all turns out well nevertheless. —Kierkegaard, Works of Love
May 2018 be a year of authenticity, action, and radical hope. When, precisely when, hopelessness is all there is, we must hope. To hope is human. To hope all things is to love—and to love is what life means. 2017 was really, really hard. 2018 may be just as hard. But God hears us, and sometimes that is the sole thing I hold onto. We hope because we want to live, we hope because we want to be.
May we never forget the beautiful people who lost their lives and lost their everything this year. For Charlottesville, Las Vegas, Sutherland Springs, Puerto Rico, Houston, Florida, California, DACA, Haitian migrants, Mexico earthquake, North Korea threats, the poor all over the world, and everyone everywhere. As Krista Tippett writes in Becoming Wise, the human story is one of a “community that is dying and being reborn at the same time.”
Hope is not an emotion. Hope is a cognitive, behavioral process that we learn when we experience adversity, when we have relationships that are trustworthy, when people have faith in our ability to get out of a jam… The most beautiful things I look back on in my life are coming out from underneath things I didn’t know I could get out of. The moments I look back in my life and think, ‘God, those were the moments that made me’ were moments of struggle. Hope is a function of struggle.” —Brene Brown
I say this every year Lord, but teach me to love better and pray more and surrender. Even though each year comes to its end in a whirlwind of failure and depravity, how beautiful that I continue to say this. I can only conclude that this is you working in me Lord, because according to everything else, it would make logical sense for me to be critical and distrustful of anything resembling a God. In this terrifying world, I should, logically, give up hope. But no, you work in me, you do not give up on me. You grasp me. So come Lord. As you came in flesh, in this broken humanness. You knew it. You have been nailed to the cross a thousand times for this pain. It’s time again for me to discern. The aching of the world is too real, too much. Help me to listen to you. To listen to you and act when it’s important. Thank you for these unexpected tears of true emotion. Make your home in me.
Becoming Wise, Krista Tippett
The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath
Seven Storey Mountain and Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander, both by Thomas Merton
A Leg to Stand On, Oliver Sacks
Sophie’s World, Jostein Gaarder
Going to the desert: Joshua Tree (read here) and Mud Caving and Salvation Mountain (read here)
(I wrote this while in camping with friends in the desert): There is nothing on this earth quite like a desert sunrise or desert sunset or a desert anything. Something so painfully, radically open and breathing and sharp but also gentle. A vastness that reminds me of my finitude and insignificance—although, I know I am significant in a different sort of way because I am alive to see these things. It is a true, ancient human condition to be in the desert—to sleep on the cold hard ground under the night sky. I love this earth—it glorifies its creator. How wonderful, how great, how awe-some.
Mexico!!! Going to Tijuana and Mexicali and getting to talk to people
Getting to see Paramore live in LA at the Greek Theatre!!!!! I wrote a concert review for my school paper which pretty much sums up my awe (read here) Plus I got to go with my talented, beautiful best friend Kate 🙂
Working at Girl Scout camp over the summer (read my post about that summer adventure) and getting to be in my best friend’s wedding (congrats Kaylee and Jaron!)
ROAD TRIP!! Hannah and Steph came out to visit the Mile High, and after a week of Colorado sight-seeing (including staying in a yurt) we drove back to San Diego. SO MUCH FUN
Albums (always hard to narrow down):
Paramore After Laughter
Julien Baker Sprained Ankle
Copeland In Motion
Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto
The Growlers City Club
The Garden haha (for fun ppl)
Eddie Vedder Into the Wild soundtrack & Pearl Jam’s Ten (hehe thank you Crystal for this one): Eddie Vedder has a nostalgic voice that reminds me of childhood, lost lovers, and mysterious summer nights driving through the Rockies (just thought I’d share)
And MY PEOPLE.
Follow my tracks, see all the times I should have turned back
I wept alone, I know what it means to be on my own
The things I’ve known, looks like I’m taking the hard way home
The seeds I’ve sown, taking the hard way home