Walking Our Faith: When you are broken and too tired to begin again (column)
December 31, 2016
I bought cross-country skis to follow Dr. Dietzgen's good advice that I exercise to offset the results of being a very talented cook.
I am a chunky monkey. I have gained and lost the same 25 pounds innumerable times.
You might be surprised that I attended the University of Michigan on a swimming scholarship. However, as my high school athletic director concluded: On land, I have the grace and coordination of a newborn colt.
Which is why as a cautionary measure I took a lesson at the Breckenridge Nordic Center. I had a wonderful teacher and enjoyed myself immensely. However, this did not deter me from falling three times in a row, the third indeed the charm, as I fractured my wrist in two places, requiring surgery and a cast for the next twelve weeks.
My skiing accident is a metaphor for the rest of 2016. Many projects begun with the best intentions ended in failure. A perfect job that I needed, I wasn't chosen for. The land I needed to sell to secure a home here, didn't sell. It seemed that if I desired an outcome, the answer would be "no."
So, I set myself a smaller goal: Recall just one success of this past year.
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That was this column. While it might seem a small thing to anyone else, for me it is seminal. It has focused the purpose of my life. Before I began writing this column, I was a writer, now I understand I am a faith writer.
This column has not been a means to share my faith, but has transformed it, challenging the easy faith I believed was strong, and showing me each week how superficial it was as I traveled through these disappointments and much prayer, only to discover God's silence. Causing me to question whether I would pursue God or turn my back.
That is what each of us faces when we reach this juncture. Remarkably, no matter what our choice, God's love for us endures. As in the parable of the prodigal son, God our father is steadfast, always ready to welcome us back.
Reaching this conclusion made me feel a little bit better about 2016. But the idea of writing an upbeat column for the new year felt contrived when I still held on to so much disappointment.
Since I couldn't write with my hand in a cast, I spent the two weeks of Christmas and New Year's catching up on a pile of books that sat on my coffee table. This time of contemplative reading has been a God-send.
Last night I finished "The Spiral Staircase," a memoir by Karen Armstrong, of the best-selling "A History of God."
I naively imagined that successful people enjoyed a relatively straight, upward career path. But I discovered in Karen Armstrong's memoir a kindred spirit.
Her best-selling book was published at 50 years old. Before that her life, as she described it, was a series of failures and setbacks. Leaving the convent after seven years, pursuing a doctorate at Oxford only to have her thesis rejected, failing at jobs in teaching and television, living with undiagnosed epilepsy for over a decade, and after losing her faith and declaring herself an atheist, becoming one of the most notable religious writers of our generation.
Reflecting on my own decades of failures, I concluded that God will use our brokenness to begin something new, if we let him.
When I hit bottom, I passed through stages of anger, fear and finally resignation. The last thing I wanted to write or read, was a pithy list of New Year's resolutions when my mind said 'what about the goals I hoped for last year?'
In this place of darkness, God calls us to be transformed by our failures so that we do not begin again, but we begin anew.
If you are a regular reader of this column, you'll know I'm a fan of selfies. But when I look at the pictures from the beginning of the year, I do not recognize myself. I have changed that much.
I am not the same woman I was a year ago. I am tired, discouraged and yet I am the happiest I have ever been because I am becoming the woman God meant me to be.
2016 was a tough year for many of us, where it wasn't one setback, but so many that a popular refrain on Facebook was, "Please let 2016 end quickly."
Yet, if we use the pit as a platform not to recall what we had before, but to become something new, we will discover our transformation and we will thank God for it.
We cannot recapture the past, because we are no longer that person. Our scars, our broken heart, broken bank account, broken spirit, have made us different. Our power is our choice to accept this newness as a gift.
Now is the time to seek God with all our heart leaving at the cross any shame or fear or anger and resting in his renewing love. From there we will build and go forward.
Let's enter 2017 embracing God's promise: "See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland." (Isaiah 43:19)
Suzanne Anderson is the author of "A Map of Heaven" and other books. You can reach her at Suzanne@suzanneelizabeths.com or facebook.com/suzanneelizabeths
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