*Note: This post first published on January 11, 2018.
Every birthday and New Year, I’m forced to take stock. Have I lived the past year well? Am I moving forward in faith? Can I reasonably recover from all my mess ups and mishaps and perhaps behave differently the next time around? Unfortunately, I fail much more often than I’d care to admit, but despite my mess-ups, mishaps, and downright failings, one thing remains certain and unwavering, as my guest today discovered while doing a little life-check of her own.
God among the bullet-points
By Jessica Brodie
Ever try to sum up your life in a bullet-list? It’s a weird, sometimes painful, sometimes hilarious exercise in self-absorption (if I’m generous, self-healing) that I tried one lonely New Year’s Day 13 years ago.
It went something like this:
- Born January 19, North Miami, Florida
- Lived with parents in small house near grandparents
- Earliest memories: books, brown shag carpet
- Age two, moved to better house
- Favorites: banana trees, stripy sneakers, books, spiky grass, swing set, Mom’s typewriter
- Afraid of everyone and everything
I should mention I was a full-fledged grownup when I did this, well into my career, married…old enough to have achieved some maturity. And at the end, I had a neatly printed six-page document filled with all the dysfunctions and quirks that had comprised my life. Right there, in black and white, I could see exactly how far I’d come.
Take that, Mean Girls of the Sixth Grade. Harrumpf.
Sure, I’d had my share of embarrassing failures and broken hearts, but a few lines later there was the college scholarship, the promotion, the kiss. Life went on. Ups, downs—they littered the page without discernible pattern.
“That’s just life,” I’d concluded—random, messy, beautiful, full of chance and happenstance, with me in the starring role. I saw how time and again I’d navigated a difficult circumstance with a solid, moral decision or confronted a tough issue by standing strong, staying true. I congratulated myself on my perseverance and gumption.
Ah, younger me.
I knew nothing.
See, all that time I thought I was steering myself through the tough times. But it wasn’t. It was God. Now I see the light.
Thirteen years later, I’ve had two children and gained two stepchildren. I’ve become a daily reader of Scripture rather than a casual Bible-thumber. I’ve experienced loss, single-momhood, near-poverty, and wealth. I’ve been to Africa and walked with lions, seen miracles happen before my eyes and within my body.
I’ve lived. And in living, I’ve come to understand how little any of it has to do with me or the choices I made. I’ve also come to see how lucky I am God has allowed me to experience this grand, majestic ride.
Recently, I tried that bullet-list exercise again—but this time, instead of chance and happenstance, I was struck by the master pattern I saw: God’s hand on everything. Every. Thing.
Why had I ever thought my life was random? It was a magical, God-orchestrated symphony. In every moment, big and small, God was there—guiding, maneuvering, until whatever He’d planned had been fulfilled … then leading me onto the next step.
That infertility struggle that seemed to last forever? Now I saw it so clearly pointing me toward humility and submission to God’s will.
That tough job where I felt so utterly alone? God was helping me rely on my internal chops—and Him—to be a better leader.
Today I look at my list and don’t regret any of the mistakes and painful moments I see. My only regret is all the time I wasted from worry.
And I see what I should have been doing all along: resting securely in the knowledge that God has our roadmap already printed out for us in the form of the Holy Bible.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” He tells us, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11, NIV).*
Try the bullet-list for yourself and see if you, too, can tell all that God has done and is doing in your life.
*Bible verse taken from Biblehub.com
Jessica Brodie is a Christian author, journalist, editor, blogger, and writing coach. She is the editor of the South Carolina United Methodist Advocate, the oldest continuously published newspaper in Methodism. Learn more about her fiction and read her blog at http://jessicabrodie.com/.
Let’s talk about this! In her book, Victim of Grace, author Robin Jones Gunn talks about taking an annual “Selah” where she hits the pause button and sort of takes stock of her previous year and what God might want to do in the year ahead. This really struck me because I have a tendency to stay so busy doing, I can miss observing all God has done or might want to do. Jessica’s post today encouraged me to hit the pause button this week, to take some time to prayerfully look over past journal entries, to meditate on Scripture, to contemplate all God has done.
What about you? Do you normally take time to remember and contemplate? If so, when and how? If not, how might doing so increase your sense of peace and awe for God? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below, because we can all learn from and encourage one another!
I did an abbreviated version of this exercise on New years day. Since God brought me to Kansas via whirlwind five years ago my life has felt quite tangled. So, I began unraveling the events. Now I have a neat ball of yarn that I can use to move forward and make something useful. It’s very freeing to get untangled!
Thanks, Jessica, for your thoughts. Jennifer, you got me to buy another book. I enjoy Robin Jones Gunn and Victim of Grace looks delightful!
Hi, Teri! That’s awesome! I need to take time to remember and ponder more often! It’s a great spiritual discipline to practice! Your ending comment made me smile. I had the privilege of interviewing Robin, back when I wrote for the ACFW Journal (which is no longer in publication). During our conversation, I was so impressed with how naturally and readily Scripture poured from her mouth; it was clear she has a storehouse of God’s word embedded deep within her heart! The book is wonderful! I’m sure you’ll enjoy it. I’d love to hear your thoughts when you finish it!