On 31: Steeped in hope

I turned 31 over a week ago and man, what a trip!

My 30th year was a dramatic dramatic journey as we all know (here and here for a preview). For me, 2022 has been a year of resolution. As Zora Neale Hurston says, “There are years that ask questions and years that answer”. This year has been a year of many answers. Of beginnings and endings. Dealing with what it means to grieve in the midst of immense joy. To grieve even when you know you’re making the right calls.

I want to share a bit about that experience and the lessons as I 31.

Welcoming God’s direction

This year, I said yes to a job gig that felt right. By saying yes to this, I said no to full time PhD and to moving. So there it was – a yes that also closed other doors. When this opportunity came along, I prayed about the way forward and my heart was resolved that this is where God was taking me. So I said yes and simultaneously said no to trying again in the things I had been pursuing.

That yes was not easy I must confess, because I had laid my plans so neatly. And put my physical, mental, and financial efforts behind my bets. Therefore, a yes in a different direction felt like a waste of all my previous efforts. Yet the saving grace was in trusting God’s intentions in the doors that seemed to be opening. Trusting that purpose lay on the other side of those doors steadied my heart, “lifted my drooping hands and strengthened my weak knees”.

Being open and ready for any and all change

Plans that we craft and toil towards are sometimes seductive and alluring. You want to bet on your bets so bad that you refuse to open your heart to anything else. This was me with my relationship in particular. I was in it fully (as I should have) and gave it my everything (as I should). But this led to an inability to even see the wind of change sweeping my way. I remember saying to my friends that ending my relationship freed me to live in my current context fully. It enabled me to take a job with the intention of being at it long-term, to apply for school in SA, to get furniture and a place. It opened me up to an alternative life and freed me to fully participate in that life.

So how do you allow yourself to be open to change? I don’t know to be honest. What I do know is that our inability to open to alternatives is rooted in fear (most times). Fear that nothing better will come along. Fear of the unknown. Fear of wasted effort. Fear of failure. So maybe it starts with trusting God with our fear. Trusting that when we leave things in his hands and purpose all our efforts towards him, nothing is ever wasted. Easier said than done, right? So, we pray for the ability to do. “For it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose”.

Holding all things loosely (always, always)

I think the theme of my late twenties and now my thirties is learning to hold everything loosely. I have realised that God has made me so passionate about things that I struggle with the concept of holding things loosely. When I love something or someone, then I LOVE them. I will not stop talking about it/them. I will find opportunities to bring it/them up. Trust me, if you are in my life you will know. This trait is a blessing in so many ways, except when it comes to holding things loosely. Now, I am not saying that you need to be dispassionate to hold things loosely. I mean you must always open your heart and hands to something else. Must always be nimble when it is clear that God is leading you in another direction. And welcome that change with a grateful heart. This may not always come naturally and that’s alright. We pray.

Cultivating and maintaining a heart of gratitude in all things

As always, fixing our eyes on God’s purposes, his ultimate will for our lives and the joys he gives us in our current form tilts our hearts towards gratitude. In good and bad seasons, God is doing something. In our best and worst moments, he is with us. In the valley and hills, he sees and purposes. This posture is meant to help us to always be grateful because nothing is meaningless or worthless or a waste. All our experiences are for a reason, so we stay grateful because though “now we see a dim reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now [we] know in part; then [we] shall know fully, even as [we] am fully known”.

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