A Word For 2016

I’m not really into new year’s resolutions. I usually hear resolutions like “lose 10 pounds” or “run a marathon” or “cut out dessert”—you get the gist. For a lot of people, making resolutions such as those is super helpful, motivating, and inspiring. But for me, a recovering perfectionist (yes, that’s a thing), it's harmful. It can set be down the path of striving and pushing myself in a way that becomes detrimental. I have the personality where when I set my mind to something, I achieve it. I am my own harshest critic. 

At the same time, I believe change is one of the most beautiful parts of life. Setting goals and dreaming big are two beautiful ways we can live our lives to the fullest. I hope to be continually growing and changing throughout the year. Transforming into a better person, not because of a new year's resolution but because of God's grace in molding me into His image. 

So instead I’ve adopted a new way to take on the new year: with a word or phrase that I’m holding close as I live out the coming 12 months.

I’ve thought about a number of words that could fit.

Courage. 

Strength.

Peace.

Freedom.

This one seems to have stuck. With word after word floating around, this is the one I come back to. Freedom. Freedom to make mistakes. Freedom to be vulnerable. Freedom from the slavery of depression, anxiety, worry, comparison, addiction. Freedom from judgment. Freedom from fear. Freedom to write on this blog and share my story as it unfolds. Freedom to be myself. Freedom to be who God created me to be. Freedom to have ups and downs and know God is still good.  

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom.
— 2 Corinthians 3:17

I'm continuing to be set free from the idols I've held too close, the things I've let control me. That freedom has come after a lot of struggle. As I look back on 2015, I see how much change I've experienced. I moved apartments and neighborhoods. I gained two new roommates. I attended a new church congregation and joined a new community group. I was baptized and gave my testimony in front of more than a hundred people. I started a new job in a new industry. I closed the chapter on a relationship and felt the pain of a broken heart. I met someone new and began to heal—and when that season ended, I was able to stand firm by myself, just as I am.

I struggled, and I hurt. Yet I learned how to hope again. I grew more this year than I ever thought possible. I saw that I could suffer—and still be free. God is at work in all the mess. Truly, greater things are at stake. I get to be free from the expectations and desires I have because there's so much more to life than what happens here on earth. This life is fleeting; knowing that sets everything into perspective. It frees me up to be exactly who I am, in this very moment. 

A current of freedom has made waves in my life these past few years. I didn't notice it in the moment, but I see it so clearly as I look back on my old journals. Last night I opened up my journal from 2012. I had recently graduated college, took an internship in a tiny Pennsylvania town, and then I packed up my whole life in a rusty black 2001 Ford Taurus to relocate to New York City. I was chasing my dreams and working so hard to make them come true. On the surface, everything was exactly how I envisioned it should be. I had everything I thought I ever wanted. But deep down, I was lost. Living for things that would never really satisfy. Idolizing success, status, my body, my relationships. 

I didn't realize how I was living my life until now that I can look back on it, and I see I've been freed from my past. Reading the words from 2012, 2013, and 2014 sound like a different person. I’ve been freed from the yokes of perfection and performance. Those old journals tell such a different story than today’s does. And it's a continual process, happening day after day, year after year. So please hear me: I still wrestle with perfection and performance. I still desire approval and affirmation. I still want to control the path of my life.

But when I see how much God has moved and shaken my life in the last three years, I get excited. If He can do all that He has done in such sweet and unexpected ways during this time, I cannot wait to see all He will do in the next three years. I have freedom to not plan everything or have it all figured out.

I have freedom to trust Him, even when it is hard.

That's the sentiment I want to carry with me into the new year. I hope true freedom will permeate my life in 2016—freedom to know I am right where I am supposed to be.