The Darkness of 2020 Cannot Overcome the Light of the Gospel
This blog was intentionally created + commenced as a travel blog to share some of my spontaneous excursions + planned destinations. However, 2020 has been a year that did not allow for many of those events to occur — at least not afar. This year has encompassed frequent flexibility + a healthy dose of discoveries. The time we have spent adjusting, we have been learning more deeply + growing beyond stagnant routines. My 2020 was a little bit like that...
As I mentioned, and as we all know, travel completely ceased + wanderlust hearts like my own were deflated when quarantine + lockdowns ensued. However, in the midst of rules + restrictions, creative minds began to construct inside tranquil, still bodies. We went back to the drawing board. We originated new ways of keeping our legs moving + our hands occupied. We dusted off parts of our brains that had been stuck in autopilot + we began to chart new territories. This occurred for me in the discovery of new hobbies such as reading (for genuine interest + pleasure rather than for school assignments!) + crafts such as embroidery, bracelet-making (a nostalgic return), collage, and what I take as a craft: cooking. But for the travel-bug inside me... it tracked + traversed foreign lands that were in my own “neck of the woods.” No way could I stay locked in a house for 2 weeks...3 months...TBD how long. I had to get outside (with proper PPE of course); even if for just a little bit or just outside my back door. Below are some snapshots from my not-so-far but new-found location getaways.
While my travel-lust was being satisfied in experimental ways, I was being stretched in many other ways, much more internally. It is not a surprise that when we face situations that are unfamiliar + uncomfortable, we experience challenges + come out changed on the other end. Have you ever felt that? I think this year provided that for a lot of us, and if you have not experienced that, 2020 isn’t over yet (LOL). I have trusted full-heartedly that God has been using this time for a purpose. We have had much time to wrestle + raise questions in the present of what that purpose may be, but now we have an opportune time to reflect in hindsight of what we have experienced, encountered, learned. For many that has manifested through a turning of eyes away from work + into the family, priorities shifted apart from external pleasures by means of money or travel + toward internal contentment through hobbies, relaxation, time with the Lord. For me, the afflictions + adjustments of this year were met with increased stress + an intentional relationship. Through both of those, sanctification.
I genuinely hope that this period has been a time of growth and discovery for people. It is times like these that make us find new intricacies about ourselves and the world around us, ask deep questions, and begin to see why difficult, dark, disheartening times truly do bring about the sweetest fruit and brightest light.
From some of the pictures above, you can see that I’ve had some really great moments + highlights from the past year. But honestly, I think the greatest highlight has shone through in the midst of my darkest. Let's set a slight scene: I was stressed. I was overwhelmed. I had the biggest breakdown of my life. My sin was no longer vague (“I’m a sinner”), but it was made evident + clear (“THIS is my sin!”). Before, I knew I was a sinner saved by the mercy of God + the blood of Jesus. I applied that to occasional sins that came up. But now I began to connect dots; God opened my eyes to see those occasions as being continual tendencies + patterns of personality.
Being close with someone allows them to see the inconsistencies + faults in us. To call them out + bring them to light, but also to encourage us to persevere + point us in the right direction to the One (only one) that can save us. The Lord has blessed my highest dose of spiritual stress with my highest degree of social support. Jay has been — fortunately for me, I think maybe unfortunately for him, LOL — at my literal side through all of the mess of myself. But that is what we’re called to do as believers in the church, no? We hear one another’s hurts + bear each other’s burdens (Galatians 6:1-2). We use prayer + the Word of God to reveal sin + to exhort one another. I have been blessed with a whole church full of obedient, loving, selfless people like that — like Christ. God used Jay in my life to point out the dirty clothes that I was still wearing so that I could fully take part in the washing + renewal that Christ was offering — not just by word or practice, but a full realization + transformation.
In our college Bible study, we have been going through the gospel of John. At the onset of this emotional overflow (the night before) we read chapter 15 — the one most people know as the “vine + branches” or the “abide in me” passage. We read through the chapter at the beginning of our time together + something captivated me. I couldn’t stop rereading verse 2: "Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit." The Lord prunes the branches that are bearing fruit… in order to bear more. He does not take the time to refine + reform a branch that is already dying or falling away. He focuses on those that are bearing fruit + He prunes them. While I was questioning whether or not my faith was real or genuine because of my sin that I had been made aware of, the Lord was pointing out to me that this pruning was not a punishment or cause for me to run away or hide. This pruning (in Greek: cleansing) was to reveal to me that I was growing in the right direction, but that there were necessary steps still needed to be done so that I could continue growing. Pruning is not easy or comfortable, but how worth it! What a glorious outcome! We must go through the discomfort of discipline + directing in order to proceed in sanctification + produce sweet fruit.
As soon as I begin to feel a tiny taste of freedom from the sins that so tightly, vigorously entangle, I am tempted to sigh in relief + throw out a quick “Oh, thank you Lord for giving me peace!” then move on. But I am quickly reminded of how weak I am + how needy I am of my Savior. Not just once in my justification by His dying for me + declaring of me, but over+over in my sanctification. I continually fall short (“fall” not “fell”; Romans 3:23) + I need continual cleansing (Jesus washed the body, but we still need washing of the feet; John 13). Now, don’t get me wrong — Jesus has already cleansed us. We see that in the succeeding verse of John 15: "Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you" (v.3), but the blood of Jesus does not only deal with the guilt of sin (present); it also deals with the stain of sin (past, present, future) which hinders our continual relationship with God. We must be unreserved + upfront, willing to come to God with our acknowledgement + plea of “Lord, cleanse me.” Not because we haven’t been cleansed before, but because we need to be continually reminded of His continual cleansing to enjoy continual relationship with Him. He is not a one-and-done operator. His love + mercies are unending, everlasting, steadfast, eternal.
So in a nutshell, I was overwhelmed out of my wits in order to recognize that I am not the ringleader + I need to REST in the One that is. I was feeling dirty + disposable + undeserving in order to discover that the Almighty God has chosen to CLEANSE me in spite of those faults, and He continually chooses to pursue me every moment of every day. I am still undeserving of this great love, but I see it in a whole new light. Not by me, but all by Christ. Soli Deo Gloria.
”Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence.
Let this be our hope for today, + for the new year.