I started 2018 with the word “lament” in my head and on my heart.
I realize that choosing a word like “lament” over a new year is strange and counterintuitive. But I wanted 2018 to be a year of pruning, one where I learned more about the Lord and my sin and what work I needed to do to grow in my faith and relationships and profession. Through my Bible reading and lots of prayer, and some other books and podcasts, I learned a little about how to lament and how it’s an important step through confession and to repentance. After some reflection, I realized I had never intentionally mourned over hard things- not my own sin, or the awful, systemic things happening in our society. Instead of lamenting over my fallenness, I tried to ignore it because I felt bad about it, because I didn’t want God to be disappointed in me, because it stung too much. And instead of really leaning into the hard injustices of this world, I typically, honestly, ignored them because I was privileged enough to do so..
Lament was really foreign to me, and after recognizing the value and necessity of it spiritually through Scripture and other teachings, it was something I really wanted to be intentional about this year in my own spiritual practices.
I spent my year of Bible reading paying more attention to how people in Scripture grieved and confessed and repented and rid themselves of their sin by turning to the Lord again and again, and I journaled my way through that process. But 2018 brought a whole lot of external good-byes for me too, and a whole lot more things to grieve than I expected.
For six months, I met with a nutritionist and followed a strict eating plan, saying no to tacos with friends and cake on my birthday in hopes to heal my body of issues that had plagued it for the past decade (it’s worked so far- PRAISES). Matt and I got a puppy and I coached tennis and he did grad school like a champ. Our routine together completely shifted in ways we didn’t expect, and it took some work to catch up and reconnect. Matt applied to a church in DC and we flew here in April to meet all the people and accepted it a week later. I raced to revise my resume and apply to all the jobs while preparing to say goodbye to a school and community and students and friends I loved. I accepted a job at an urban charter school with the desire to learn how to teach well in a diverse setting, which I knew would require a lot of humility and listening and learning about systemic injustices that our students face. We found an apartment on Craigslist and drove hundreds of miles with our pup in the backseat to see all the family before we left Indy. We moved in June.
In those six months alone, we said so many good-byes. Good-byes to routines and normals and communities and friends. See-ya-laters to living closer to family, and to a life that was really comfortable.
This year was littered with loss and change and adjusting and different. The lamenting that was happening in my heart, it was happening in my external life too.
Then my dad died.
And grief has now become my new normal in ways I didn’t intend, because with one phone call in August, it felt like everything blew up.
My dad unexpectedly dying was a strange and coincidental thing to happen in my year bannered with lament, or maybe not. Maybe the Lord just knew that this was a word that would fit my year, that would prepare me for something a whole lot more tragic than I could have anticipated. Regardless, I spent a whole year focusing on grief, and honestly, it was brutal.
But as all things in faith, hard things lead to beauty and joy and hope because Jesus was resurrected, and that’s the narrative that dictates the Christian life, my life. And as I shed buckets of tears this year because adjusting to new realities is hard, I also started to tip-toe my way towards a deeper dependence in the Lord, and to learn over and over that it’s truly the best way. We’re experiencing the care of the church in our grief and growing in our new opportunities, and tightening bonds with our family and lifelong friends in really beautiful ways. This year has been defined by these paradoxes, of lament but hope for a better eternity, deep sorrow over lost things, but also great joy through the Lord and new opportunities and our local church.
This year, through all of the loss and good-byes and death, it’s making me believe in Jesus more. It’s making me believe more deeply in the Gospel and the resurrection and hope and eternity, because I think being close to death and loss forces you to really consider these things. It’s making me experience grace in new ways because I was aware of my desperate need for it more than before. 2018 was messy and hard, and I’m ending the year exhausted and hurt and a little confused. 2019 will bring more grief, I’m sure, but I also know it’ll bring beauty and grace and joy and hope, just like I saw this year, and I’m really excited for those moments to come.