Back sometime in the fall I chose a word for 2015. A word to set the tone of the year, a mood to strive for, and a word to focus on. I chose soften and this year really has been about softening. I live by myself now, back in the corner apartment of a quiet building. I have a lot of opportunity to bask in silence. I started yoga, which is all about softening. Softening the gaze, softening the breath, softening the shoulders. But as much as this has been a season of softening, this first third of the year has also been a season of gratefulness.
So often I find myself looking around me and just grinning like a fool. I’m just so happy! I’ll say. Because I am. So happy.
I talked to Rebecca and Catherine last week before Rebecca got in a plane and headed off to South Sudan (she’s there right now – pray she doesn’t get eaten by a snake). Rebecca asked us what she always asks us. How’s your soul? Then she said something like, You seem happy, Suz. Not that I haven’t seemed happy in the past. I usually seem happy. It’s because I’m a 7. It’s because I focus on the positive and push the negative down and away. I breathe it out. But I must seem extra happy because from miles away and through Facebook statuses and Instagram photos, Rebecca noticed my extra dose of happiness lately.
I’m extra happy because my life is extra full. Full of students who grow and learn and drive me crazy and sometimes really, really get it. Full of cat time, sitting in the quiet listening to the purr that means my cat really likes me. Full of good sleeping time in my big, comfy bed under a breezy window and a stand up fan that still works after almost a year, praise God. Full of time in the mountains (although I can never get enough) and feeling more at home than tourist. Full of God’s promises – that He’ll keep showing up chock full of mercy and more love, that He’ll sustain me through the day to day, that He’ll forgive me when I fall, that He’s more concerned with me falling more in love with Him than He is anything else, that He’ll provide the funds I need to keep doing this living thing. Full of books (so many books! 34 read so far this year) and other people’s beautiful words of encouragement and challenge. Full of writing (although not as full as it should be) and learning self-discipline. Full of relationships and days on the beach and sunshine and breathing deeply and sore muscles and Coca Cola.
Extra happy feels a lot like peace.
I want to continue to cultivate a soft life of gratitude and a life of simplifying. I read something JS Park said today that nearly made me weep with relief. Someone asked him about “gay Christians” and whether or not they are a possibility. JS Park, as he often does, said exactly what I’ve believed to be true but with much more grace and wisdom than I have. He said, “My hope is that every person I meet can encounter the love of Christ, then they’ll eventually read the Bible for themselves, and then hit on something that might contradict them — which will lead to conviction. That will look different for everyone, and I’m not the boss of your convictions.”
And I said, “Oh my word, preach.” Because seriously. I tell my students constantly, “You are responsible for you.” I am responsible for me, you are responsible for you. Doesn’t that simplify things? We don’t have to have all the answers. Doesn’t that set you free? Doesn’t that make you grateful that you aren’t God? Man I’m glad I’m only in charge of me. Being in charge of me is a big job. I physically, spiritually, and emotionally cannot handle also being in charge of the people I know and love, let alone being in charge of people I don’t even know.
Something God whispered to me during my first year here in the DR has really stuck with me and changed the way I view my fellow humans. He said, “You don’t know what I’ve asked them to do.” Ain’t that the truth? All I can know is what God has asked me to do. All I can do is love the people in front of me, ask for forgiveness when I mess up, and press on toward the prize.
This year – so far – I am softly simplifying, making sure to give thanks along the way. How’s your year going?