[My friends and I gave each other an assignment a few weeks ago: the task of writing a letter to a-year-younger version of ourselves, on the verge of 2017. So, below is the letter I would write to the woman who was me on December 31st, 2017. She sat at her computer, much like I do now, planning and plotting for the year to come, and these are the words I would share with her.]
Happy New Year! Welp. You made it through 2016!
I know you’re feeling a foreign feeling – a hint of hope hovering in your heart. I think going back to school and a new job have left this feeling glimmering inside of you, and you’re terrified to trust it. Because you can still hear the broken pieces of your soul jingle when you walk, you can still feel the need to move slowly so you don’t tear open your wounds again, you can still feel the ghosts of the losses you have had moving around you.
It’s going to be filled with learning and discipline. You’re going to work to be good at things that don’t come naturally. You’re going to be forced to get better at details, and you’re going to have to make space and room for failure and discouragement if you want to actually understand the things in the books in front of you.
But guess what?! You will. You’ll discover that there is an endurance and a distress tolerance in you that will enable you to work harder than you’ve ever worked, and you’re going to feel really good about it. And when you’re tired of working hard, you’re going to find that an anchor of perseverance that you didn’t know you had, maybe because you haven’t had it previously. Maybe all that you have walked through has given you a steel in your soul. And when you graduate, when you turn in your thesis, you’re going to be proud of what you accomplished this year. Because you didn’t give up when it felt like you had given it everything. You took a breath, and then you gave it another go. I’m proud of 2017 you.
After a couple of falls from the saddle, you’re going to learn to gallop this year. (And that’s not a metaphor.)
You’re going to go to LA for the first time. And Toronto, where you’re going to sit in a theatre and remember what it feels like to find a movie you love.
You’re going to drive around Scotland with a friend you haven’t seen in too long, and you’re going to feel the power of words to stitch the soul back together.
You’re going to face hard moments in 2017 for sure. There will be friends who disappoint and aftershocks of delayed drama for things in the past. You’re going to face situations that might once have been your worst nightmare, but you’re going to find that doing the work of walking into the pain of past wounds has enabled you to respond differently to new wounds. And you’re going to be shocked to discover that you will in fact have the grace to look at people and hear them say things without needing to take responsibility for their emotions.
And oh, the sweetness that will bring. So sweet in fact that you will find yourself caught off guard by a moment in the summer when you suddenly realize that at some point you have stopped praying for death. That somewhere without you paying attention your soul has somehow seemed to start believing that there is more work for it to do here.
Out of an overflow of that, you will find your voice once again, and you’ll invite a group of women into your living room and together you will open the Word of God, and you will find that not a single one of them points a finger or throws a stone your way and tells you that you aren’t worthy to speak His words.
And that – that will be a moment you feel the scraps of your soul start to sing again.
And these women will give you courage, through the way they tilt their heads and look when you speak – as if what you say has weight; through the way they listen to your stories of sadder days without shrinking back – as if you are not the things you have done.
The courage they give you will enable you to show the things shared with you in the dark to new eyes, and in the Fall, you will find yourself sitting at a computer or in a room or in front of a camera sharing the things the darkness has taught you to value: that grieving is healing and healing is necessary for us to move through life as healthy people.
And this will be the year, when, with tears in your eyes, you get to describe to strangers the way that Jesus meets us in the darkest days and the ways He can bless the wounded and the weary with greater grace than many might ever taste.
This year – you’ll find yourself looking around at a life that was once a wreckage and being amazed to see that restoration – while not complete – was never as impossible as it once seemed. You will find that friends have not fled and forgiveness is real. You will find a confidence that is born of fear of the Lord: you believe Him when He says that you are precious and unique and loved and wanted. And you fear Him so much – His words hold so much weight – that nothing anyone else says has the power to tip the scales and make you believe otherwise.
You will find that the words spoken long ago are not just true in the abstract but in the experience; indeed, suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope doesn’t disappoint because the Spirit of God is more powerful than the flesh and failures of man.
I’m excited for you, Fabs. Be present. Don’t waste a second of watching life be brought from dry bones.