Happy 2018, my friends!! (We’re now 3 months in but it’s fine, 2018’s still pretty young.)
So this is a pretty big year, I guess. I turn 21, which is really not old at all, but last week I told the kid I nanny that I was born in 1997, and after he did the mental math, he says, “so, Miss Shannon, you’re…um…eighty…six–no–seven?” I mean, 21, 87, close enough.
With a new year comes CHANGE (thank goodness). I am such an adventure junkie–I feel like I’ll probably live in every state in the country at some point (and out of the country). While I’m not physically in a new place, I’m feeling a whole new adventure in my heart.
Last year, I wrote about my “word” of the year. My word was VULNERABLE. That certainly became a theme of my 2017. It had it’s fair share of trials, but I learned to finally open up about them and to invite other people into the joys + struggles I was facing. It was a huge lesson in freedom to share my heart with other people. I feel like in 2017, I experienced the deepest, most fulfilling friendships I’ve ever had in my life. I witnessed old friendships grow deeper, and new friendships that inspired + encouraged me + revealed to me a depth of community that is definitely not of this world.
This year, I wanted to have a “word” again. Around the time of New Year’s, I began praying about it, that God would direct my thoughts. I made a list of goals I had for the year, and long story short, I felt there was one word that seemed like it just fit: BOLD.
So over Christmas break, I watched The Greatest Showman a total of 4 times (well, 3, then I saw it again once I got back to Tallahassee). After watching it, I just wanted to go tackle every single dream that entered my mind. I thought to myself, “this is gonna be the year where I start pursuing my dreams and adventure like nobody’s business! This will be my year of ‘yes’ and of taking risks and of FREEDOM!!” And it very well could be. But in the past 3 months, I’ve been learning a different lesson in boldness, one I never knew I needed. And so our story begins.
January 8, 2018. The start of a new semester, the start of a new job, all with a fresh and bright outlook on life. See, fall semester of my sophomore year was riddled with anxiety. Feelings of inadequacy, like I wasn’t enough for everyone. Family tension. Over the summer, I was confronted with my tendency to please people, no matter the cost. It left me worn out, bitter, and confused as heck. So coming into the next semester, I thought those insecurities would be gone, like the change of schedule would wash it all away.
But on that first day of spring semester, I broke. I shadowed at my new nannying job, and I was swallowed up by my storming thoughts. I could think was, “I’m not good enough for this.” I felt this intense fear of not being able to measure up to my perception of what people wanted/needed me to be. I came home that night, sat for a while, and then FELT.
I felt fear. Anger. Frustration. Confusion. Helpless.
With tears rolling down my cheeks, I grabbed my journal and a pen and wrote. (I write out my prayers, so I can one day go back and see how God has been at work in that area of my life.) I clicked my pen and dug into the page as I practically carved my feelings into the page. Then, you know what I did?
I screamed at God.
Through tears and heaving sobs, I held nothing back as I let Him know how I was feeling. I even said at one point, “singing songs about your goodness is just rubbing salt on a wound right now and I don’t wanna hear it.” At the end of that journal entry, I etched in, “Please God give me your strength BECAUSE I HAVE NONE RIGHT NOW” (Didn’t even use punctuation–ain’t nobody got time for punctuation when you’re upset.)
I was supposed to go hang out with some friends that night to watch the Georgia/Alabama game, and I had two options:
- Stay home
- Show up with puffy freaking eyes regardless
I knew my time with them would be life-giving, so I mustered up the energy to change my clothes at least and headed over.
Then, the most ironic yet most beautiful thing happened.
I parked my car and took a deep breath. My eyes were a puffy mess, and my mascara was basically everywhere but my eyelashes. At that point, I owned it. I didn’t even care. I walked into my friends apartment and I knew that’s exactly where I needed to be in that moment. After saying hi to everyone, I sat down on the floor across from the people sitting on the couch. And this is where God slipped me a little note of encouragement. One of my friends said to me, “Shannon, your makeup looks so good! Are you wearing eyeshadow?” I actually laughed out loud and explained, “haha, nope, just basically had a breakdown and cried a lot.” And now, looking back, it clicked.
That night was a tangible reminder that there is beauty in brokenness.
I never realized, but I had always kind of “cleaned up” before I talked to God. I never bared my soul like that. The beautiful thing is that God wants my messy. He calls me to come to Him when I’m burdened, and HE ALONE WILL GIVE ME REST. He wants my joy in joyful moments, but He also wants my pain, my hurt, and my anger. And He doesn’t want the cleaned-up version. “You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” (Psalm 51:17)
My definition of boldness changed after that night. It’s not just “pursue your dreams, you can do anything you set your mind to, etc.” Those aren’t bad thoughts, they’re just not complete. What happens when the bottom falls out?
Isaiah 48:9-10 says, “For the sake of my name I delay my wrath, and for My praise I restrain it for you, so as to not cut you off. Behold, I have refined you, though not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction.”
At first glance, that verse might seem harsh, but I then went on to look up what “praise” meant in this context in Hebrew. Turns out, there are 7 DIFFERENT MEANINGS OF THE WORD PRAISE. Now I’m not Bible scholar, so definitely don’t quote me on this, but I found one particular word interesting. “Yadah” is the Hebrew word for praise with lifted hands, with surrender, and in one website I read, like a child reaching his/her hands up to his/her father. You know what that means?
GOD INVITES OUR HURTING HEARTS. He straight up promises He’s not going to cut you off if you yell at Him. He’s not going to get butt-hurt, I promise. That’s what Jesus came to gift us with–the freedom to a real, beautiful, raw relationship with the Creator of our hearts. That same Jesus that sends Roman soldiers to their knees at the sound of His “I Am” is the same Jesus that hung on the cross crying out to God so that we could, too. Isn’t that kind of amazing? I mean, pain sucks. It really freaking does. But in that pain, I’ve realized a deeper level of the love that Jesus has for me.
And I’m learning to boldly walk in my relationship with Him in confidence–your heart and your feelings (ALL OF THEM!) are WANTED by the Lord.
BUT IF NOT, HE IS STILL GOOD.