** WARNING: Long-ish post. Well worth the read, though.**
Sooo, I’ve had cause recently to look back on 2019 a few times. Of course, there are many writing directions one can take such a sentence, but what I am going to highlight here is with regard to relationships. In my opinion, all of life is about learning to love. Learning to love God, others, self. When I thus think back on the year, I question just how well I advanced in that arena.
Take parenting. I discovered (in increasing measure, mind you) just how much of an ogre I can be to my kids when I am stressed, frustrated, overwhelmed, hungry, not feeling well, annoyed at my husband, and so on. In short, when there are other factors, external and internal, that I must contend with simultaneously. It’s in those moments that I think of that saying: “What do you get when you squeeze an orange?” The idea is that something sweet should come out. That is, if your orange is a nice one from the tropics, not some of these sour-tasting oranges one occasionally runs across, blechhh. Sorry! I digress big time. Ok, point is, who I am on the inside should be good to begin with. And that “good” ought to be manifest consistently (more or less) regardless of exterior conditions. Right? In the Christian Bible, Jesus says something like that: “A good tree produces good fruit.” In other words, there’s usually no confusion at harvest time for your average farmer, knowing what s/he planted earlier. Well, this year I discovered that I was not so solid on this one. Lemon juice would show up when I wanted, say, milkshake to ooze out. Buuut, I can’t be so down on myself either because I too noticed that when I had moments to think back on those awful situations, I would resolve to, with the help of God, exhibit more self-control. It simply wasn’t enough to blame grumpy behavior on other causes. I needed to grow instead to a point in which, stress or no stress, I could manage emotions enough to be a genuinely pleasant person to all. And I saw myself change! So, hmm, guess I will go ahead and give myself a B grade on this one.
Take family. Family is always a tricky one isn’t it? Well, for those of you for whom it is all smooth sailing, you best thank the LORD. That is NICE! 😊 A true blessing. On the other hand, I actually do consider difficulty in familial relationships also to be a blessing. Trust me, I didn’t always. Chuck this up to the me that is (finally?) maturing. Lol. I have been able to more deeply understand by experience the phrase “iron sharpens iron” that is so often quoted among Christians. I have had to have difficult but oh-so-healthy conversations with family this year that I think were necessary. Those conversations were easy to run from, but, by choosing to engage, forced growth on all sides. I was able to learn humility, experience a broadened perspective, and grow in terms of knowing what it means to be an adult and have tough and yet respectful conversations. I am thankful for 2019. I would thus give myself maybe a B+ here.
Take friends and acquaintances. What a year this has been. I have had tons of newbies added to my life circle, and, yes, have had a few exit. The exits were hard for me, and certainly not a choice of mine for the most part. I would say that pruning took place and some relationships had run their courses. In the case of all the “expired” friendships, I have amazing memories of those people and love them a lot. But, yes, they’re out for now. You know, I notice that this has been a pattern in my life – whether because I’ve moved so much in my life or a measure of my personality. People seem to easily enter my orbit. A loyal person, I put in effort to love those in my space, some actually fiercer than others, which then makes the pain a lot more intense when it is time to let go. But that really is how life is. Like books on a shelf, the exit of one makes room for yet more others who will challenge even more our abilities to love well. At the same time, such a life pattern has forced me to be very intentional with the relationships I have before me at a given time, aware that I’m not clued in as to how long that season will last. As a result, I have pursued, poured into, and received from truly incredible people who I have been so blessed to have done life with so far. What a great year 2019 has been. You know? I think I’ll go ahead and give myself an A- on this one (just because I feel that giving myself an A would seem so big-headed of me! Haha). I need to appear humble here. Lol!
Take God. Now this is in no way simply a case of “last but not least” because, where God is positioned in a person’s life will inevitably (trust me!) impact all other aspects of their life, including, if not especially, human relationships. The Author of relationships is surely the foremost expert on the subject. Aaaannnyhoo, when I think about my relationship with God, I’ve felt like it must be a good thing to wrestle with God on issues. There are inevitably things we all question, not just about our faith but about our human relationships. This year has seen me asking Him a tonne of such and wrestling with Him. I’ll tell you, one man in the Bible has almost been a hero of mine in that regard. Thought I would read about Job (not same pronunciation as Steve “Jobs”) and, in making my way through that book of the Bible, I saw him basically questioning some of God’s decision-making processes. He wasn’t being blasphemous about it, but he sure did ask God these “for real” questions. Oftentimes I felt like: “Yassss, Job! Ask Him!” Seemed like I was a cheerleader at times because the man was asking some questions that sometimes bug me and remain unanswered. Nothing wrong with all this. I have just found myself asking certain existential questions of God this year and I’ll tell you, it feels healthy to be willing to dialogue with Him on these. To open up those cans and dig deep. In short, I feel like I’m getting to a healthier place. I would rate myself a good B+ here.
Why I talk about a healthy place in terms of relationships is because I’ve noticed that in the American culture (a generalization, yes, but one based both on experiences and on American friends telling me) confrontation is avoided quite a bit. People avoid asking the tough questions in their close human relationships, and so how much more of God? The only place some people feel free to be truly honest about their feelings is behind a screen as keyboard warriors. That is flat out unhealthy. As I’ve discovered much this year, there is a growth that happens when you force yourself to face your fears, learn how best to approach people, learn how to swallow criticism/feedback, and in short, learn how to love in spite of differences. Even better, the real growth occurs when two people previously sat on opposing ends of a spectrum are found in the middle by the end of a tough and painful (tearful even!) conversation. Bottom line? In wrestling with God or people, I find that I stand a greater chance of knowing them more. With the difficult conversations I had this year, our relationships ended up feeling more cemented, more real, because they had been tested and survived.
Turns out, people of all types and temperaments were put here as the greatest tools for our learning to love. I must keep embracing this truth and never find myself either cowering or running from the experience entirely.
Just some things I’ve learned this year. Resonate with you at all? Share in comments!