2016 is Dead. Long Live 2017.

2017Well, friends, it’s finally come. 2016 is finally reaching its bitter and welcomed conclusion, and while 2017 may be blanketed in fog and uncertainty, there is still something inherently hopeful about the turn of a new year. There’s still something radically reassuring about opening a new year’s journal and flipping through its fresh, un-inked pages with nothing but wonder pressing you onward.

Of course, looking back upon this past year, I can see that it was not all bad. No year–no event–is complete without a bit of good, bad, and ugly all claiming a seat at the vast, simultaneously-abundant-and-impoverished table. And this year in particular was among the most polarizing years I have ever personally experienced, where the moments of triumph and accomplishment bellowed with much of the same vigor as the moments of frustration, guilt, and disappointment.

Among the highlights of my year, one would be hard-pressed to find a reason to complain. I graduated from college and began pursuing my Master’s Degree. I was invited to eight weddings and attended all but two. Several other people I’m close to, most notably my brother, got engaged, and come May 13 I’ll get to see myself donning the Best Man’s outfit for the first time. One of my best and oldest friends announced her pregnancy. My family was graced with a fifteen-pound bundle of bark and bounce named Lily. I’ve started to pick up learning Spanish (again) with the free(!) Duolingo app and the Spanish translation of the Harry Potter books. And–while I’m not the healthiest person on the planet–I’ve also started drinking homemade smoothies roughly five times a week.

On the other hand, this year has not been free of its struggles. While I certainly take pride in my commitment to stay informed and keep up with current events this year, the products have, needless to say, been harrowing. I watched as two flawed presidential candidates brought themselves center-stage in front of the eyes of the world, the entire election season leaving a bitter taste in my mouth, and mourned as our nation’s Christians and Electoral College put one of the most hateful, arrogant, and un-Christlike persons alive into the Oval Office. Not only that, but I felt helpless as I heard reports of yet another shooting, another bombing, another Syrian neighborhood being driven out. And what is worse: I began to feel numb in response to all these things.

Personally, I felt as low as I’d pretty much ever felt at several different points this year, in particular when I was turned down from my “ideal job” in September, and when I was let go from the job I’d previously maintained up until this month, and when I faced non-responses from what felt like hundreds of other potential jobs throughout the year. I had to say goodbye to my college friends and am now forced to settle for conversations through text and the occasional weekend visit every couple of months (the frequency of which will likely only decrease as time goes on). I witnessed firsthand what distance and disconnect can do for relationships, and I spent the entirety of my summer [and beyond] learning that healing cannot exist without pain and suffering first coming into play, be it physical, emotional, spiritual, or any combination of the three.

All that being said, I’m doing my best to greet 2017 with the same sense of hope I used to always pride myself in. While it’ll be beginning with a whole bunch of cliffhangers, I refuse to see these things as an excuse to mope about or especially give up.

Among the many lessons I learned this year (yes, I know this entire post of made up of cliche’s–what New Year’s reflection isn’t?), perhaps the most prominent one of all is the fact that life is not meant to be experienced alone, apart from everyone else. We must find value in the things our friends and family provide for our well-being, and we must, in turn, learn how to better be there for them.

As far as resolutions go, I don’t really have anything specific. I hope to keep learning Spanish and to keep drinking smoothies (and possibly do a few more things to try to live a healthier life). I obviously want to find another job–if not one with a church then at least one that will help me pay for grad school–and I hope to keep moving forward in my pursuit of my Master’s Degree. I want to continually learn what it means to live as a follower of Christ–submitting to peace, but refusing to be silent on matters of injustice, loving my enemies, and abiding by the Spirit by emanating love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control in every situation.

While most of 2017 is still a completely empty slate, I’m kicking the new year off by going to an interfaith retreat this first week, and through it I hope to do something I’ve never really done before: try to friends with people who aren’t exactly like me. It’s gearing up to be a refreshing and educational first few days of the year, and you can bet your bottom that I hope to produce at least one good blog post out of this event.

Thank you for reading. Until next time, may we reflect on this passage from 1 John 4, a passage that I’ve been asked to read at my brother’s wedding and one that’s been on my heart and mind quite a bit these past few months in particular.

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. (1 John 4:7-8 ESV)

May we learn to love, and may we learn that love begets love and that hate begets hate. The God I strive to know calls me to love my neighbor and my enemy, and this oh-so-divisive world we live in loves to make enemies of one another. But may we love one another instead. May we strive to make peace instead. May we seek justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God instead as we start this new year.

Grace and peace be with you until we meet again.

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