I had to write a fable with a moral for my 10th grade English class. The last line of the story had to be, "And the moral of the story is ______". I thought that was a pretty dumb way to end a story because, if the writer did their job, shouldn't the reader know what the moral is? Turns out, even in the best stories in the class, the moral wasn't really obvious until someone pointed it out.
Therefore, in these last hours of 2011, I want to take a minute to do my own "and the moral of the story is ____" from this past year, so I don't go into the next year missing the things that I fought so hard to learn over the past 12 months.
So, here are the lessons I've learned this year or the lessons that I'm still working on that started this year. I've had a tumultuous year, more so than most of my blog readers know, so hopefully, at least for those of you who know me personally, none of these are too shocking.
Things I've learned in 2011:
1. Demons are real. Just as real as you or I or the screen you are reading this on. And they have a much bigger impact on our lives than most of us think. They want our death, one way or another. Demons are real. It can't be said enough.
2. We have to rest. If we don't get enough rest, God forces us to rest (in my case, with an extended illness). Just make yourself slow down and save yourself the doctors' bills.
3. Organizing my time and forcing myself to write things down, even if I'm doing just fine keeping it all in my head, takes a lot of stress off.
4. The world is a very selfish place. The thing that tugs at my heart when it comes to non-believers is seeing how that selfishness makes them empty and often blind.
5. I can do all I want as far as setting goals for myself. But God has a plan for me and that is what is going to come to pass, whether I like it or not.
6. Nothing gives me more joy in the world than seeing the face of God and seeing people get baptized.
7. If we truly seek to be like Christ, we have to give up our identity of Republican or Democrat or any other political affiliation. First of all, the Church in the US is way too nationally focused. Second, there is evil on both sides of the aisle. God will put the leader He wants in place. And though we should be concerned about the affairs of our country, we can never debase God to the point of linking Him with a political party or movement.
8. I underestimate people too often. I also overestimate people.
9. The less time I spend in God's word and especially the less time I spend with Him, the more anxious I become.
10. It's better to be bold and passionate than to be non-offensive. God promises He will be foolishness and offensive to those who don't believe. Just accept that some people will be offended and move on.
11. Prayer matters. Big time. It cannot be overstated. Prayer matters.
Things I started learning in 2011, but don't seem to have completely grasped yet:
1. There not only are people who love me, but there are people who want me to love them. In fact, to some people, my love is really important to them.
2. God can make things happen, no matter how hard you fight Him on them. And if He doesn't want something to happen, no matter how hard you try to make it happen, it's not going to happen.
3. Hearing from God isn't actually the key to being in His will. I actually have to get off my butt and do what He tells me.
4. Opening ourselves up to each other and letting each other see our warm fuzzy underbellies is really God's plan for His Church, for His Family. As much as culture tells us it's better to be self-sufficient and to act like you have it all together and don't need anyone, not opening yourself up suffocates you from human connection, which is just as important to us as breathing.
5. God wants a slower pace for us. Yes, we need to be good stewards of our time, but that doesn't necessarily mean squeezing the most out of every second of our lives, even if it is in the pursuit of the Lord. There are things He designed us to do. Do those things. Don't worry about anything else. Either someone else will do them or they really don't matter.
6a. The dream on my heart was put there by God. Whether or not it's going to come to fruition doesn't matter. God wants it there. And it especially doesn't matter who thinks what about it. If I follow God and someone wants to condemn me for it, my obedience trumps their pride.
6b. God made me to teach and to write. He also made me to shepherd, pray/worship, love and create.
7. God will provide. Especially love.
8. We need to have our motivations right before God begins His work.
9. I need to recognize and trust the times when God is bringing someone to my attention. He's doing it for a reason.
10. Just because something happens in your head doesn't mean it's not real. There is a whole spiritual realm that we as Christians are residents of. To us it seems like it's in our head. To God, it is every bit as real, maybe more so, than we are.
11. Our God is infinite and that is how He can give us Grace. To Him, numbers and severity don't matter. There isn't more or less. There just is. That is why all sin is the same. You are obedient or you are not. There are no shades of gray. That doesn't make sense to an infinite God. In order to send His Son to Earth to die for us, He had to give us blanket grace. Grace that is either on or off. We can't earn it. We can only accept it.
I know these lists aren't conclusive and I'm sure as soon as I hit publish, I'll think of more things I should have added. But I think it is important to take these times to stop and reflect. It's not only important to see how far we've come, but to make sure we are learning all the lessons God wants us to.
To all my blog readers...thank you for reading my blog this year. You are playing a key role in helping God to develop me. I wish you abundant blessings in 2012. Yay Jesus!