I’ve attempted to write this first sentence to start the last day of the past year, and still here I am struggling through the course of the cursor, waiting on the words to spill or crawl its way out like vines on healthy soil.
The variations have spread from a spring of emotional discourse that trotted down paths of breakdowns, hopeful new (and when you think about it, quite redundant-) beginnings, or just plain old respite from the rather tumultuous year that was. And as pretentious that sounds - that is exactly how the year was. Tumultuous. A long streak of confusion that ran from the very beginning and fumbled its way until the end. A plethora of life’s classic hits and misses. A fine, greasy line between the worst and best year of the years I’ve had.
To be frank, I still don’t know how to go about this year end post. I’ve written one too many hopeful pieces in years past, talking about how we don’t need the strike of a clock to usher in paradigm shifts or craved new inspirations; that life’s pains are never in vain when one, like myself, believes in a sovereign God who allows and disallows things for the betterment of His people, and the tireless monologue goes on.
But today I just feel like writing about how grace abounds from where the ideal is lacking, how love is sometimes most felt in the absence thereof (or at least in the absence of the fatuous idea thereof), and why one must break barriers, even those which are set to keep one safe, to help keep one sane.
So here goes.
I’ve gone through enough breakups in my life to know that it all pans out the same. There’s a period of sadness - that aching, throbbing of pain that jolts you awake in the middle of your sleep, or pushes you to get a tattoo, a haircut, a random trip, a stranger’s kiss, another drink, just anything that could help you from sinking so deep into your conscious melancholy…and then it eventually gets better.
But I guess it’s different when you plan your life and whatever’s ahead of it, around one person, for the first time. When everything that you are and that you ought to become, becomes an adjustment to gratify the other. When you redefine what love is to fit what he thinks it should be. When you go through the process of everyday trials, pains, inspirations, and gains with just one other person in mind, the course of resuscitation is different; it’s much more excruciating, it’s very particular, and it drags. I guess I had to learn the hard way - that that’s the problem with anchoring who you are on yet another capricious being. It gets messy.
To put it simply: it was a tough cookie, that 2017. Filled with sporadic, heavy bouts of depression, a trip to the shrink, a dose of prescribed medication, and a screeching halt from the dizzying mid-year undertaking of it all only to find myself right where I had started.
I was looking for answers in all the wrong places, tearing at my brain for not arriving where the world says I would if I continuously feed my demons enough to keep them quiet, and bearing this heavy weight everyday on one shoulder - away from everyone I do not want to see.
I’m sure you’ve felt this way too - and if you haven't, know that a certain crucial interval in life eventually comes to define some foundational values you will eventually live by. Mine was love lost, in what felt like an all-out attack at my prized idea of it, and then, an ensuing trickling down of its demise on everything I held dear. I saw it fall apart from where I stood, gnawing at my misery: my perfect-imperfect setup of a ferocious work-life-love balance had started to slip between my fingers; my feet wet as it all fell to the ground, a puddle of carcass out of the life I once carried out everyday, standing in conceited glory. It was a mess. This was grief that felt like hitting an artery; it rang an instinctive need to immediately stop the bleeding. A need for a paradigm shift - a desperate attempt to once again finding redemptive grace that echoes joy and love.
And I guess…I always knew the only place where my loss could become renewed gain.
There Christ stood, waiting on me - offering steadfast love, peace and joy, in exchange for my despair. Gifting the understanding of it all from a perspective of eternity, rather than the temporal. Arguing that nothing I’m going through, or ever will have to, is, or will be in vain if I rest my heart in Him. Growing up in a Christian household, this wasn’t a new concept - in fact, that’s the anchor by which our belief is held - that man is inadequate so God made a way to revive us; to give us life through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
But I guess I never felt its gravity until I had acquired most everything this world called beautiful and suffice, and still found myself empty. It didn’t quite make sense because for the longest time I had convinced myself I was happy, complete - riding the wave of life holding this other person’s hand, two perfectly capable beings coexisting, building dreams, working out goals. I’d fool myself into thinking that was enough - but like most people who fixate on their own strength to do the right things, live the right way, or love how the other person deserves to be loved, I dried out. My heart simply was not capable of giving, not the way it ought to be. My love wasn’t unconditional; I was unforgiving, easily-angered, boastful, I kept records of wrong, I was impatient, unkind. I didn’t know any better. I had a failed comprehension of love, and naturally, every other mistake followed.
I only started to grasp what love truly meant the farther away I was to my own definition of it, and the closer I came to understanding what Christ did on the cross. Humility, sacrifice, a sense of auto-abdication in resolve to serve others, to bring life. An incredible story of the greatest love ever presented to humankind; our absolute needs met with the the most capable Creator, Giver, Lover. Christ has become the point of reference in my life, and of many others’; a signal fire, a source of absolute, lasting desire. It all of a sudden made sense - a capricious being like myself couldn’t quite love, serve, or satisfy, ultimately, in an equally capricious world, unless anchored in an everlasting, supreme Being. That is the truth that God offers. So when I look at the world and see it from the perspective of His truth, everything else starts to pivot in a direction that actually makes sense - even the most banal issue of my personal heartbreak.
Seeing life from a Christian worldview, every experience and each circumstance became means to fulfil a broader end goal - from things that happen according to our needs and wants, to those that have caused our greatest afflictions. It all points to the realization that we are just passersby in a broken world that tends to demand so much of us and settles to give so little of what we truly need: a sense of purpose, a comfort from pain, an everlasting joy, an unceasing love. What Jesus offers is an irrevocable regeneration; His word gives life, it gives meaning and identity, it promises an eternity far from this broken world - giving instead that which He has prepared in perfection, a reconciliation with our Creator. In all this I found that fine greasy line that turned the worst year of my life, I guess, to the best (yet).
That was my 2017. My head still spins thinking about how I tried to keep up with the rhythm as life took off from waves of sorrow, to a crossroad of rediscovery, a season of growth, and now to this steady cadence, fighting to root for the Truth. It has led me to hold onto our intrinsic value - what sets us apart as human beings from all the other living creatures, why we should give superior importance to the lives of people around us, to those we love, and even those who have done us wrong. The Bible offers an explanation of origin that gives merit to our existence; that, contrary to what Dawkins says, we aren’t "...just dancing to DNA". We are made in the image of God.
Me, you, image of God.
Broken world, there will be pain.
The Cross, the way to finding true life.
Seeking that Cross and the risen King, redemption.
And in that redemption lies the most invaluable reason to love, exceed, excel, serve, bring joy, and be kind to oneself and to others in complete absence of judgment, in fulfilled purpose of being, despite the circumstances.
My prayer for you this year is that you won’t just take my word for it. Hopefully, that you won’t take just anyone’s word for it. We live in a volatile world that shifts incoherently, and if we simply keep on going with the motion, it will eventually pull us apart in all directions. So I pray that you personally seek for the truth - to look for it, and look at it from every perspective, as Ravi says - to test its logical consistency, empirical adequacy, and experiential relevance. If possible, I hope you wouldn’t have to go through the same, sweeping pain before arriving at a conclusive answer.
I pray that you are reminded of God’s love for us and the innate value we have because of it, that you find unchanging joy in all of your life’s seasons, and that you will experience true grace and forgiveness. I pray that we will learn to be at peace with what was, to cherish what is, and to look forward to what will be with an unshakeable force of courage found only in His relentless love.
To 2018 and many more fruitful years ahead.
"In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another." 1 John 4:9-11