Christmas of 2017 has now come and gone. A few days remain before 2018 begins and we entertain the possibilities of what might be in the new year. For many, the immediate goals will inevitably revolve around weight loss, heath, organization, etc. For others, major change looms ahead, with the expectation of a marriage, birth, divorce or career change.
Though we pride ourselves on being a resilient people, a "land on your feet" and "pick yourself up by your bootstraps" kind of culture, the truth is that change is slow and often painful. Despite the best advertising gimmicks and social media illusions, life cannot be changed by adding a filter. The mask serves only to delay the reality that others will eventually see. The perfectly positioned selfie only hides the weight and wrinkles, it doesn't remove them.
While I took enjoyment in scrolling through the families photos and other pictures of Christmas excitement that friends shared online, I'm quite aware that no one wanted the world to get a glimpse behind the curtain, where the overindulgence, fights and despair were prevalent. After all, who wants to see that side of life?
I fully expect the next few weeks of social media feeds to be chalk full of pictures of "clean eating", exercise clothing and pictures taken at the gym. At the core, don't we all just want to be encouraged and cheered on so that we might have a chance at really making a change this time?
I too have the goal of slimming down and getting healthy, but with my 40th birthday on the very near horizon, I also have complex and perplexing thoughts about who I really am, what I have accomplished, and what there is left for me to do. Certainly, I must be among a relatively strong percentage of people who went to school for one career, and ended up in something completely different. Did my tastes and desires change, or did life simply happen that lead me down a strange and unexpected path?
If I were to allow you to have a glimpse behind my "curtain", you would see some confusion and disillusionment: The reality of parenting is far different that what I envisioned; What was once clearly black and white now seems to have some smudges of grey around the edges; Standing firm requires a resolve and energy that sometimes seems impossible. These are the issues of life that make the "strong" realize their utter weakness.
So with the start of 2018 do I (and you) simply need to "reinvent" ourselves, so that we become the upgraded version that we always wished to be? Does more resolve and accountability set the stage for a successful year? Maybe.
Perhaps the key lies in recognizing the significance of where we have been, even if that trail leading to this present moment is littered with pain and suffering. Is there something in your journey that you can use to help someone else? Did you overcome trauma and now have the ability to genuinely speak words of comfort to someone who is lost in grief? Were you able to overcome adversity and can now use your experience to challenge someone's way of thinking who is becoming stuck and bitter?
As appealing as it is to think about reinventing myself for the new year to be a picture of health, prosperity and success, I recognize that this goal may be all about appearances, and have very little to do with truly transforming me into the person that I want to be. Just as a butterfly must struggle through the cocoon in order to have the strength to fly, I too must struggle through the difficult parts of life to become strong enough to face the next set of challenges that will inevitably come. Were I able to be instantly transformed into the butterfly, I would look great for photos, but would fall flat the moment I tried to fly.
May this serve as an encouragement to you that 2018 doesn't necessarily need to be a year of reinvention. After all, you are "fearfully and wonderfully made", even if you cannot yet grasp the profound magnitude of that statement. Take heart friends, even if you are walking through a season of great pain. As you struggle to be free from your cocoon, whatever that may look like, your character will be strengthened, so that when it comes time strain your wings against the wind, you will fly with majesty and freedom.