One year has ended and another has begun. For many people, a new year signifies new life, new hope, new dreams and goals. For others it is a reminder of things now gone, loves lost, and the struggle that is awaiting them.
For me this new year feels different from others. My birthday is new years eve and usually this means that there is fun, presents, and all the good stuff of birthday's, as well as the joy of being on holiday and also getting to celebrate the turn of the year with everyone on the same day. It is usually a great time.
This year, not so much. Not because anything really changed around me - I still got presents and all that - but because I feel different about it. Maybe it was because I was working for the first time ever on my birthday and now also on New Years Day. Maybe that made it feel just like another day rather than anything special like years past.
Or maybe it was because I am now in my 30's. Last year I turned 30, which is always a big celebration, but this year I am 31. No big celebration around that, I have just officially become a 30-something year old. This has triggered a small emotional crisis for me for several reasons:
1. I am in my 30's but my husband is still under 25. Now we have different numbers at the start of our ages it seems like such a bigger age gap than before. I feel like telling people our ages now will get even more of a reaction than it has before.
2. I still feel 24! Maybe it is because I am at the same level as my hubby, but I feel his age rather than mine. The fact that I also became sober around 23/24 after drinking since 15 means that I have developed slower emotionally than others my age - this is a proven thing that happens to addicts - and the fact that for many years I was mentally unwell means that I feel those years are missing and in my memories I am much younger than I feel. Or maybe everyone feels this way when they get older...who knows!
3. For some reason leading up to 30 feels like you are still growing up. Birthdays are still exciting and you are still considered young. Now it feels like birthdays are less about growing up and more about getting older. Maybe popular culture has sold me the idea that it is all down hill after 30, because now it feels like it is all downhill from here.
4. I don't feel like I have accomplished as much as others my age. I have a friend who I have known for pretty much all my life. She is a trained lawyer, has a house, several investment properties, a husband, 2 kids, and a dog. I have a husband......and that is it. I am not in the job I trained for, have no kids, don't own a house, etc. Though I know I shouldn't compare my life to others - as I have gone through things that she hasn't and vice versa - it makes me feel like I should've done more.
Perhaps these are common things for people to feel as they get older, and I certainly hope I am not the only one who feels this way! Or maybe the year Luke and I have had has put me in a melancholic mood.
We have had a tough year emotionally, spiritually, mentally and physically. We have moved cities, jobs, houses, churches. We have been in traffic accidents, faced the mortality of loved ones, struggled with our own health issues, and tried to understand God in the midst of suffering. It has been the toughest year we have faced as a couple, and we are both glad that it is over and a New Year has begun.
In the midst of all of what we have been going through, one thought has been playing around in my mind. It was spawned by listening to a Christian radio station and hearing so many songs about how Jesus is all I need. The songs basically all say, no matter what, no matter how crappy life is, Jesus is really all we need, ever.
Though these sentiments are probably helpful for many people, I find them somewhat difficult. Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life but not even he said that he is the only thing we ever need. He said we cannot live on bread alone, but need the Word of God, and that he is the Water of Life and those who drink from him will never be thirsty, but did he mean that he was all we need for every situation?
I would argue that no, he is not. Because Jesus himself commanded us to love God with all our heart, mind and strength, and to love others as we love ourselves. Jesus can't be all we need because we are made to be in relationship with others. You can have a great relationship with Jesus and he can be your solace in times of pain, but without other people you are still lonely. You are not being fully human to only rely on Jesus for all your emotional needs.
God created us to be together. Even when he created Adam, who was in perfect relationship with God and walked and talked with God, God saw that humans should not be alone. It is only in relationship with others and with God that we are complete. Yes, these relationships are distorted in a fallen creation, and yes, these relationships can draw us away from God if we let them, but they can also bring us closer to God through our love for others and their love for us.
If we begin to face hard times with the belief that Jesus is all we need, then we do ourselves and others a disservice. We do not allow others to minister to us, to show Jesus to us in our hurt, and we also do not allow others to see God at work in our weakness. By blocking out others as something we need, then we block out an aspect of God at work in our lives also. Faith then becomes about the individual and not about the church; about how I feel about God, and not about the witness of others; about my personal relationship with Jesus at the expense of vulnerability and humility in our communities.
I have had a tough year, and I am going through an emotional crisis, but it is my relationship with others and with God that helps me get through these things. It is in my dark moments, when I am incapable of feeling the love of Christ because of my pain, that it is the love of others that ministers to me. It is through their words, their actions, and their care of me that I see and hear God. It is also when they tell me off or tell me I am not listening to God properly because of my pain that I realise that God himself is speaking to me. As iron sharpens iron, so the members of the church sharpen each other.
So next time you are thinking God is all you need, look at what God says about that. Love one another as Christ loved the church. Lay down your life for each other, carry each others burdens, feel each others pain, and minister to the weak, wounded and hurting around you, and let others do the same for you. We are the bride of Christ and need each other just as much as we need our Saviour.
Jesus and the church are what I need.