It is May 2019 and I have just sat down to write my reflection of 2018. Though we are not quite halfway through this year, the last year feels like a completely different era. One which, I quite frankly, would be happy to not remember aside from the very unavoidable reality that it has shaped who I am becoming. This is true of every memory, of course, but it lays particularly heavy on the memory of 2018.
It would be easy to just skip over this post and my 2019 Framework post since it is so late in coming. However, if only for the sake of tracing the work of God for myself, it seems valuable. Better late than never. I’m tempted to tell more of the story since we are months removed from the events of 2018, but I won’t. I will reserve this post for reflection on the past. The present and future are reserved for another time.
As in past years, 2018 was given a framework: a word and verse to shape my perspective throughout the year. My word was “CULTIVATE” and my verse, Psalm 37:23-24.
I entered the year with a hopeful bewilderment over the word CULTIVATE. I am known to some (mostly the unkindly realistic voices in my head) as the Botanical Butcher, mass murderer of all plant-life. Still, I knew this was the framework through which I would observe and engage in 2018. And Psalm 37! He delights in every detail! He directs my steps! What a promise!
I would surely see life emerge from the dust in 2018. I was sure of it. And I was so very right and so very wrong.
The first half of 2018 was delightful. I was settled into my new teaching job and experiencing such joy and inspiration in the classroom. I was settled into community and watching the boundaries of that community expand. Cultivation was happening intentionally. It did not come without struggle, but was so rooted in joy that the struggle felt more than worth it. Opportunity to invest in others and myself abounded. People spoke life over me. Doors opened for me to write and lead and teach.
I had told the Lord that I would say yes to every opportunity to grow in my writing and teaching. I was doing the work, cultivating the seeds.
Then a man entered the picture. He seemed to be the fulfillment of long-awaited promises and recently refreshed hope. He felt like a best friend. And I continued to cultivate. I did my best to invest in that relationship with the same intention as the other opportunities of life. And he supported me in my other pursuits. He wanted to know what I know, to learn from and with me. And I wanted to learn from him, from his story, his life, his faith. There were struggles that concerned me but I was listening to The Lord and hearing Him more clearly than ever. Plus, He delights in every detail. He directs our steps. I believed. I trusted. I invested.
Much of the cultivation of 2018 led to visible fruit. Journeying with the women of my church through The Exodus Gospel was by far the highlight of 2018. It was hard work. There was dirt under my nails and blisters on my hands from the tilling and planting and patiently tending. And it bore the sweetest fruit of new friendships, communal growth, and Kingdom impact.
Then there was the cultivation that did not produce, despite the promising beginnings. The man left. From words of devotion to complete disregard in a matter of moments. I was heartbroken. This is the first romantic heartbreak for me, and it is debilitating. Without going into too much detail, the likes of which are reserved for those who walked with me through it, the second half of 2018 was marked by pain. Every glimpse of healing was bowled over by storms grief, which came barreling through without notice, destroying again and again the garden I’d so carefully cultivated.
Long story short, cultivation did not yield the fruit I’d expected. The life I was so sure I’d see rising from the dust instead seemed to wither away. The Botanical Butcher at her finest. Of course, things are not always as they seem. There may be a seed sleeping beneath the surface waiting to spring forth in new life in the right season. We shall see.
Oh, and it turns out that the promise of Psalm 37:23-24 I would be resting in was not the delight or direction, but rather the determined grip of a God who holds onto our hands when we stumble.
(Stay tuned for Framework:2019. Surely it shall be posted before the year is halfway gone.)