Onwards and Upwards

There are a lot of memes going around about this year. Memes about this year going around, that is. Some of them are actually quite funny.

No one can deny that it has been a rather peculiar year for everyone. So in light of all the sadness, strangeness, and semi-unexpected nonsense going on this year both internationally and personally, I’d like to end a weird year by recognising seven people (or groups of people) who have made a difference in my year whether they know it or not.

7. My Lecturers

It’s not just this year. It’s been the last four. This year was just particularly difficult between dissertations ans the inconvenience of illness. So thank you for your support guys, academic and spiritual.

The main reasons I’m thanking you might seem unusual but it has made a huge difference: Thank you for letting me ask questions and thank you for shredding my arguments.

You’ve born with my complex visual class notes (some of which I have included in this post) and my bizarre analogies, even allowing me to reference Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy in a very deep and complex discussion of Systematic Theology. It has helped me to grow more than you might realise. I didn’t particularly excel in high school though I didn’t do badly and I always felt stupid for asking questions at church. And so to enter a classroom where you took questions like ‘if one takes the view that God is outside of time, why is it predestination and not postdestination or simply just destination’ seriously. You also took time to consider how my use of the ghosts in Christmas Carol to explain confusing hermeneutical concepts might actually work. Thank you for letting me ask questions and bearing with my unusual thought process in working out the answers.12778712_193346051031868_600047355772850193_o

Thank you for answering so many of the questions which felt stupid in my head and patiently walking me through the arguments, teaching me to think and showing me that I’m actually brighter than the school system had led me to believe.

And thank you for shredding my arguments. Believe it or not, I actually enjoyed defending my dissertation presentation to you guys. I’m glad that you regularly reminded me in my more anxious moments that my age and gender are irrelevant when it comes to my writing and reasoning ability. You cut me no slack for my age and I’m thankful for the height you set the bar. Taking my arguments apart felt harsh at first but it has taught me to think things through properly, to recognise inconsistencies, and to have the courage to call you out too.

So thank you not for teaching me what to believe but teaching me how to think about what I believe and why, to recognise and fix the inconsistencies, and to defend my convictions.

6. Two of my Classmates

This mother and son duo are the best. Actually their whole family has been a comfort to me in times of struggle without ever knowing it. I think at least one of you reads my blog.

Hello sir.

Your wife and son have been unbelievably good friends to me whether they realise it or not and have often been an anchor to sanity in classes where I felt like I might be the only person taking God’s word seriously.

It’s kind of weird that a friendship begun in a backwater village in Kalimantan has lasted all these years and all these changes and all these miles. Such is the grace of God. I really miss you guys. You’re all so smart and so spiritually mature and so loving.

Thank you.

5. The Sweetest Couple I Know

There is a Burmese man and his wife with hearts like lions and manners like lambs. It’s funny how little time we have actually spent together yet I love them like family.

Every time I meet them they are so honest and gentle that I don’t realise how seriously I’m being challenged and convicted until I go away and think about it. We all love them. They’ve had more than their share of sorrows this year but they’ve had a fair amount of joy too.

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They always encourage and convict me. Their example makes me long for more and more of Christ and they have the gift of seeing right through people and melting away their walls. I’m grateful for their love and prayers and for how they’ve called me out to repentance and to strive for greater godliness this year.

4. The Church

I moved to a new city this year and I found it very hard at times. I don’t regret it, it was the right thing to do and it is such a good thing. It has just been hard sometimes.

If it hadn’t been for my new church family, I would have given up long ago. They are a beautiful picture of how it doesn’t matter who you are, we are all brothers in Christ. Sure, we have our problems like any church but they’re really good on the family front and I’m thankful for all of their love and for how they’ve looked after me and I’m really excited to come into membership in the new year. You guys have really helped spur me on to love Christ and his church more and more.

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3. My Second Family

You know who you are. Once more, this is more than just this year. I knew things would never be boring again from the first time I met you guys. You are like a second family.

There are many things that could be said and many quotes that could be quoted but there are some things that needn’t be said in such a public place. I will say though that I am thankful for all of your love and for your fearless but godly rebuke. I would be a very different person today if it weren’t for you all. Who knows, maybe one day I might actually cry in front of you. Haha!

2. My Good Friend

Yes, you’re part of my second family but you deserve a little thank you of your own.

I’m sorry we haven’t spent that much time together this year even though we live in the same city (I miss writing to you). And I’m sorry for when I haven’t been there for you. And I’m sorry for all those times I’ve hurt you or driven you nuts.

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But thank you for being such a good and godly example even in the midst of your struggles. Thank you for your prayers. And thank you just for being such an amazing friend. Ah luv ya. Here’s to many more years.

1. My Parents

Now, I don’t want to make my mother cry but I think that the more the years go by, the more I’m learning to love and appreciate my parents. They had the insane task of raising me and my two brothers and handled the challenge admirably. They still continue to support me in a hundred different ways and to help me work through whatever the latest thing is. They also remain very good at telling me when I need to stop my nonsense.

I’m really thankful for how they’ve been growing this year and how they’ve helped me to grow too even though we drive each other crazy as much as we ever did. There’s a good reason why God puts us in families and I can never thank him enough for mine, even in our low moments (and there’s been a few of them this year).

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So here’s to a quirky but surprisingly put-together family with all of our sorrows and joys, frustrations and triumphs.

And Now…

‘To the stars through adversity’ as the Latin phrase goes. It’s cheesy for sure but 2016 has not been so very dramatic as people seem to believe. God remains on the throne. He still keeps his promises. He still rules even if Princess Leia is dead and the Whitehouse administration has taken a decidedly interesting turn.

And in these fickle, fading tides of kings and kingdoms and everyday life, God places in our days all these constellations, these many tiny, bright things to be thankful for, to remind us of his power and his tender care. He has given us people to love and nurture, and people to love and nurture us, reminding us of the upward call, reminding us that this world is not our home.

There are thousands upon thousands of thing I could be thankful for, things you could be thankful for too this year. But here are seven, fellow pilgrims all, who have been sent to love, help, rebuke, and encourage as we wind our way ever onward in the pursuit of the celestial city.

 

 

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