There’s an interesting verse from one of my favorite Hillsong tunes:
So I yield to you and to your careful hand,
When I trust you I don’t need to understand
If I’m being honest, I have a really hard time with this line, because I love to understand things. For me not knowing means not being in control. Which is probably one of the reasons this has been such an uncomfortable year. 2019 has been a whirlwind of things, and if there is one thing that has set me on edge, it is the unnerving ambiguity of everything.
January is a depressive anxiety, and a period of intense self-questioning.
February brings a change, and then another change; and I do not know this then, but it is setting me up for what is about to be quite the rollercoaster of changes.
March and April are a grueling monotony of days and for the most part, the only highlights I can remember now are late nights playing PS4 with friends.
In May, life turns 24, and God’s birthday gifts are a job offer and a huge, huge dilemma.
June is a big life decision and then a blurry interlude; a waiting for an end.
July teaches me that beginnings, too, can be underwhelming. It mostly sounds like a Michael Jackson hit because everyone keeps asking Why? Why? I have put a lot on the line, and now the seething self-doubt has begun. How do I know if I followed God’s voice, or my wayward heart?
August will mostly be a question mark, and way more than once I will find myself looking back and wondering if I did, after all, make a huge mistake.
September is the smell of wet-fried fish served with a side of Ugali and frustration, and my mouth feels full from biting off more than I can chew. I try to fit my whole life into a rucksack and move 400 kilometers down the edge of a map. Rookie me has two regions to cover, two targets to deliver, two teams to lead, and a manual driving test to pass, on second attempt. I pass the test, but barely.
October will bring a bit of clarity and some structure will be established. For the first time, I will feel like maybe I actually have a shot at this thing.
It’s funny, but all I can recall now of November are nights with thunderstorms and power blackouts. The days, however, are a beautiful repertoire: me, driving a manual pick-up truck down a road that winds through expansive sugarcane fields, marveling at the beauty of the lush green fields, but also at the ridiculousness of it all: me, in this place, at this moment. Who would ever have thought?
I did not quite know this when the year began, but 2019 would destabilize me in ways I am still coming to terms with. This year created a person in me that I never knew existed. My usual risk-averse, play-it-safe persona morphed into someone who went out on a limb and made extremely difficult and risky decisions which at some point seemed to contradict even my own common sense. This person surprises me, still.
But here’s a thing I’ve learned about decisions: they demand to be made. And in my struggle with my own indecision, I have come to realize that not deciding is also a decision. I have realized, also, that there is greater value and purpose to be found in seeking utility than in pleasure. In the preamble to a decision, our generation resorts to asking “Will this make you happy?” when perhaps the better question ought to be, will this make you feel more useful?
I remember reading Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor’s Dust last year and two words kept recurring throughout the book: What endures? And the theme of a retreat I attended earlier this year was: What can withstand the test of time?
I think about that idea a lot. It seems that there is great liberation in knowing that I can enjoy things immensely while understanding innately that they are fleeting, and therefore practicing detachment. Everything changes. There are no solids. Keeping this in mind helps me know that when the moment calls for it, I can leave good things behind, even very good things, not because I do not appreciate their goodness, but because the moment demands it. Standing still means falling backwards.
So if present me were to speak to Jude from the start of this year, I would say something like this:
Even though it may not seem like it at the moment, you are actually off to a great start. It is perfectly expected that some days will be good, and some days not so much, and some days will be a ridiculous mixture, but on all these days, please make your bed in the morning. Down with all that victim-hood and look around. Oh, the incredible things God is doing through you. The things he is about to do. Do you not perceive?
Pain will have so much to teach you, but so will joy! And yes, there will be days when the present will be a thorn in the spirit and the only thing you will feel you have to offer is this excess of nothingness. Even on those days, offer that nothingness. God has this wonderful history of creating beauty from nothing. And finally, when you encounter those many, many moments when it isn’t clear what it all means, ask for the grace to trust. God’s answer is time.
God’s answer is time.