As if you haven’t already gathered, I’m not a big fan of Christmas. Of course, I’m a fan of Who we are celebrating, but this time of year hasn’t been very good to me for awhile. However, I do love the time between Christmas and New Years. It always leads me to reflection, which I’ve come to love. I love being able to look back and better see the ways God has held me close throughout the year. I’ve only been a “word-of-the-year” person a short time and the word has to basically fall into my lap, guided by the Holy Spirit. Otherwise, the words mean nothing to me if I have to conjure them up. I did have a word for 2020 for a short time. But then I promptly forgot about it for the rest of the year until a few days ago. My word was “Free.” While reflecting on my year, it’s so clear to me that, even though I forgot, God remembered. He wove that word so intricately throughout my year, teaching me to embrace its gift. And at the end of a year that has limited and confined us in ways we could never have predicted, I’m delighted to say that I’m actually more free now than I have been in all of my 36 years.
With honor and praise to the God who remembers, here are some ways He has led me closer to freedom in 2020:
- I have learned that God loves and accepts me now, not just the “perfect” future me. For so long I believed that He was disappointed in the current me and waiting on a better me in order to pour out His acceptance. Because of the shift in this perspective, I have stopped beating myself up over every imperfection. It’s a tough habit to break and I certainly still fall into the perfectionism trap at times, but the tremendous weight of that self-imposed responsibility has mostly been lifted. Hallelujah.
- As soon as I fully accepted the acceptance of God, I no longer needed the acceptance of others, something I craved and chased my whole life. Needing the acceptance of others to survive is so destructive. I submitted the damaged relationships to God, asking Him to only give them back to me redeemed. Guess what? Some relationships, He did. What a gracious God. Living redemption is breathtaking. My undying thanks to the Lord for these gifts.
- My prayer life has increased and deepened. I had already become addicted to the word of God, but this year I’ve depended on Him in prayer more than ever. Along with that, I better understand my authority in prayer. I’m fierce in my intercession. I fully embrace that at the name of Jesus, evil must flee, so I pray with that warrior mindset and firmly grasp my shield of faith. I pray boldly as God’s heir, no longer as an orphaned child. I know that evil fears me because I have the living Lord Jesus in me. It’s truly empowering.
- I am focusing much less on the physical and more on the spiritual. Granted, the days my body screams for attention makes it difficult, but this dramatic attitude change has made me SO MUCH HAPPIER. I am not healthy by any means. But having any amount of happiness again is a true miracle. Praise the One who works those miracles.
- My heart is softer. Scratch that. My heart has always been soft. I just hated its softness and hardened it by building walls, fighting off my sensitive self with every fiber of my being. This year, more walls have come down and I actually don’t mind very much. In fact, it’s what I pray for every day: the courage to be who and how God made me. It feels good to embrace the emotions God gifted to me, the heart He placed in me, the big ole pile of mush His girl is meant to be… in a good way! I love the heart I once hated. Sometimes I sit in awe of this radical shift in me. God is amazing and the way He created us is ALWAYS the right way. Embrace it. I’ll quote one of the books I read this year, “When you are you, we all get to know God better” (Karen Casey). Let us get to know you. Otherwise, we’re missing out on who you are, and your heart, brain, and body are at war within you. It’s not meant to be that way.
- My trust in God has grown exponentially. Once I finally let go of hoping in my body and in a better physical life, I finally put my hope and trust in God. He’s the only One who will never let me down. I believe that now. Before, I thought He had let me down over and over. But that’s just because I assigned expectations to Him that He never promised. I trust Him to heal me in ways far better than physical. I’ve seen it happen. Praise Him.
- I am able to dream again. Dreaming requires hope and I had a tenuous relationship with that concept. My hopes had been dashed too many times to want to entertain them once more. But again, that’s because my hope was in the wrong things. Now that my Hope is Jesus, I have vision for the future. I hold that vision lightly, though, because I know that God will take me on whatever path He sees fit. But it feels wonderful to dream about the future again and to believe that I actually have a meaningful future in this life. Dreaming big with God has made me smile again. I think He’s smiling too.
- Jesus is EVERYTHING to me. I no longer cling to most things in this world. Sure, I’d love to not have anymore heartache but, when I do, I know I will be okay because I have Jesus. There’s nothing like knowing that He holds vigil beside my bed as I sleep, singing over me, and loving me. He is my means of survival. And He wants me to thrive here too.
- I have a better understanding of God’s provision. I’ve been mad at Him a time or six for not giving me the things I think I need. But now I know that His promise is to strengthen us when our version of need isn’t met, and to give us the grace to be content in all circumstances.
- I have less fear that I will never be healed physically. I’ve now tasted the fruit grown out of suffering and it makes me hungry for more. I’d love a healthy body, but I am no longer desperate for one.
- I am far less afraid of pain and grief. This is a huge miracle, as these feelings used to utterly terrify me. The ironic thing is, I now believe God has gifted me in this area but I allowed Satan to corrupt the gift for most of my life. Now, I try to enter into pain and grief in the strength of the Lord, not myself. I can’t do it without Him. I can’t carry the weight, so I bring it to Him and He graciously comforts. Sometimes my fear kicks back in and I have to carry it back to Him again, but He doesn’t mind. I’m so thankful for His unending patience.
- I’ve stopped hoping so much in a “someday” and started living more in the now. I didn’t think I could actually do that when my “now” looks so small from a human perspective. How exactly do you glorify and serve God at home by yourself day in and day out? Oh, my dear friends, this may actually be the truer test. When no one is there to back us up or for us to serve, will we still choose Him? The life of the hidden Jesus-follower can be so breathtakingly rich if we’re open to it!
- When I don’t understand something and am tempted to doubt, I step closer to God. Sure, I may fret for a bit and throw out some questions but when there are no answers, coming closer to God is the comfort I find. We aren’t meant to have all the answers. I no longer want that kind of control.
- I said this in a previous blog but it bears repeating. I have been set free from having to set everyone else right. Miss bossy-pants over here struggles with this. I feel very much like I have a responsibility to tell people that they’re wrong! But that’s not in my job description. In the age of social media, I still occasionally fall into this trap, but I am much more at peace when I’m able to let people follow their own journey and trust God to do with them as He will. It’s my job to pray and God’s job to convict.
- Similarly, I have a better understanding of my freedom from guilt. I know now that sometimes circumstances don’t have a reason we’ll understand in this life and the constant need to blame someone (even myself) for those circumstances is incredibly unhealthy. I have not mastered this… but I get it now.
- I do not have to fix anything myself. This realization has lifted immeasurable weight off my shoulders. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve blamed myself for illness, anxiety, etc., tried to find a reason so I could fix the problem, and desperately grasped at straws for some way to get better. More often than not these days I can say, “it is what it is,” and move on. I still lament and cry and get angry, but trusting in God to work things out in His perfect way is tremendously freeing. I’ve seen so many long miracles He’s worked that I no longer blame Him for not working more quickly. These long miracles did not feel anywhere near like miracles as they were happening but, looking back, they are so intricately beautiful that only a loving, creative God could have the wherewithal to work them out. I trust Him to continue.
All of these things have led me further along the path toward living in the freedom Jesus died to give me. I am free to be who and how I am, the way God created me to be. I’m free to feel the way I feel without shame. I’m free to be just me before the Lord with no one to back me up or for me to pull along. He loves me for me. Hope and joy have returned to me, the likes of which I never thought I’d see again. And in this year that looks anything but free, I am learning more than ever to live free. I forgot my word, but God remembered. And that’s the whole point. I don’t have to do it on my own. I’m not supposed to. When I forget who I am or my purpose, God remembers. He reminds me. He holds me close and whispers to my heart until I remember. He lives through me as I submit to Him.
I don’t yet have a word for 2021, though a couple options are rolling around in my mind. I am “confident of this, that He who began a good work in me will carry it onto completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6). Bring on 2021. I’m ready for more heart-breaking, heart-healing, heart-growing freedom. Are you?