At the time I began writing this post, it was 11:30 p.m. 30 minutes until January 1, 2015 is over. A beginning for so many people of something new. A new lifestyle, a new diet, new relationships, new everything. We make promises to ourselves, we make promises to our families, we make promises to God and wrap them up in the nice little bow we call “resolutions.” And then, so often, we break every promise we dared utter within the first few days.
This year, instead of making resolutions I knew I wasn’t planning on keeping, I spent my day eating collard greens and black-eyed peas (a southern tradition that has carved itself into my life, regardless of how gross I thought it was as a kid) and reflecting not only on 2014, but on years past.
In a little over a week, I’m going to turn 24 years old, and I’ve found that it is so easy to spend all of your time thinking back to “the good old days.” And I even spend my time chasing those days again, attempting to relive days gone by when my close high school friends go back home for a few days, a few weeks, maybe, and I return to the town where I grew up to spend precious minutes with them.
And in that time, we make new memories and it is beautiful.
Some days, I wish the moments would last forever.
Let me restate a few truths I’ve mentioned on this blog and elsewhere in the past year.
1.) This is my first foray into living by myself in a new city.
2.) I work as a Youth Minister for an incredible, supportive church and I really love it.
3.) I am, by definition, an extrovert. Everything about me is encapsulated by that. I process everything externally, value constant contact, love to be surrounded by others, gain energy from that socialization, and turn into a sluggish pile of molasses when I don’t have it.
4. Maybe that makes me needy, but I’m currently okay with that.
All of that said, living in a new city is an overwhelming and terrifying thing. I have met folks at the church I work at who I care a lot about and consider friends, but that doesn’t go far beyond the walls of the church, because, well, relationship building takes time.
I have met people at local coffee shops and through mutual friends and the times I spend with them is great. But it doesn’t feel like home just yet. And I’m told that’s normal.
But a year ago last month, I left a college campus filled to the brim with people I spent every waking hour with. And now, experiencing the brunt of loneliness isn’t just relegated to the times I am alone in my apartment seeing what’s new on Netflix.
So, many days in the past 6 months, my extroverted soul has been sick, even when I’m surrounded by others.
Frederich Buechner, a Presbyterian minister, once said:
“That you can be lonely in a crowd, maybe especially there, is readily observable. You can also be lonely with your oldest friends, or your family, even with the person you love most in the world. To be lonely is to be aware of an emptiness that takes more than people to fill. It is to sense that something is missing which you cannot name.“
Did he read my mind? Probably. Or maybe it’s that the human condition is incredibly predictable. And this keen observation tells me I’m not a freak, I’m not alone in my (sometimes self imposed) isolation. That, as extroverted of a person as I might be, people cannot solve the innermost longings in my soul.
Buechner then points to a familiar passage of scripture, Psalm 137:1
“By the waters of Babylon, there we sat down and wept, when we remembered Zion.”
Buechner, and many Christian theologians like him, find parallels between the Psalmist’s cries of dire landlessness and a longing for home with our longing for heaven, our hope to see God face to face. For the one who knit us together inside of our mother to hold us closely and call us Beloved.
This is so that we, fickle people who can’t always keep their emotions in check, can be reminded that our lives are of importance to the only One who can love us with a fierce and undying love, and embrace us despite that we are so slow to give love in return.
And that, when we feel loneliness creeping up inside of us, that longing is for Zion, for Heaven, for the place we can’t quite see but that we know is there.
He finishes with :
“Maybe in the end it is Zion that we’re lonely for, the place we know best by longing for it, where at last we become who we are, where finally we find home.”
I am in a transition currently that is both beautiful and painful. The little boy that I was is becoming the man that I am. I am responsible for others, someone people look to for guidance and the best I can give them is an assurance that though all may not be right in the world right now, it will be one day, and in the meantime, they aren’t alone.
As I reflect on the year, one common theme that emerges is change. Everything is in a constant state of change, like sand shifting underfoot. There are very few things you can hold onto in this life, but I want to make one thing clear: Jesus Christ is the only thing worth holding, the only thing that, at the end of it all, won’t slip through and leave you lonely.
When and if I can look back on my life on January 1st, 2016, I am fairly confident I will see a life where my extroverted soul is free and surrounded by new friends and deeper relationships than I currently have in my new setting, but everything can change in a precious moment. But not Jesus.
He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
This New Year, after being surrounded by my dearest friends and closest family and feeling a joy that sometimes feels elusive, I resolve to not resolve. Because life is a journey that doesn’t end until I reach Zion, until I’m finally home.