I’m not an avid enough moviegoer to give you a list of my favorite films of the year. I’m nowhere near up to speed on current music enough to talk about the best artists of 2012. The only books I’ve read are theological ones, mostly Thomas Aquinas and Martin Luther, so books of 2012? I haven’t got a clue. What I can give you as a year-in-review a la LRE Larkin, is, well, me. So what follows are some of the moments this past year when I was reminded that I don’t have my act together, that I’m not in control, and that I need to be forgiven (and to forgive). In short, these are some of the laugh-or-you’ll-cry moments in 2012 where I was reminded of who I am, namely, a sinner in need of a savior. From comical gaffs to real-life experiences, here are my 6 favorite moments of 2012:
6. One morning, I picked up my friend’s kids to bring them to school with my own. About ten minutes into the drive, there was one of those perfect lulls in conversation, and my youngest son seized that moment with gusto as he shouted, “YOU DUMB-ASSES!” I could feel the embarrassment rising in my cheeks—crap, when was the last time I used that word?? I wanted to pretend I didn’t hear it, but then I caught her look in the review mirror. My friend’s daughter was looking at me, her eyes as big as quarters; she wasn’t looking at my son, she was looking at me. Guilt set in, and I tried to regain my status as a good mom so I feigned shock and disgust, “Jackson, where in the world did you hear such language?!?!”
5. As the primary parent that stays home, the laundry often falls to me. On more than one occasion this year, I’ve had to answer the following question from my husband in the negative: “Do I have any underwear?” Then I hide under the covers, “I’m the worst wife in the world!”
4. In a class I was auditing, a student asked the professor a question. After the professor answered, I interjected what I thought to be deep theological insights that would truly enlighten my classmate. The student responded when I was finished, “Thanks, but the professor answered my question already.” D’oh!
3. I lead a bible study for college students where I live. I love the students I teach and am honored to have the opportunity. One time, a particularly astute young man disagreed with something I said–which is fine and I (theoretically) welcome disagreement. But the conversation quickly rose beyond casual disagreement, and I lost control of the situation—of me. I started to take his heated disagreement personally, and I ended the exchange with this winner of a line, “You’re trying to teach me? ME?!” If my diplomas had been in reach, I would have thrown them at him. Shortly after the evening ended, I was convicted: it was the absolute wrong way to handle the situation. I had to go to the student in question and ask for forgiveness, which isn’t easy when you’re the teacher.
2. A friend came to me recently and said they were harboring some serious resentment towards me because of something that had happened months back, and they needed to ask for forgiveness. I sat and listened to what it was that I had said and done that caused them pain. When they were finished speaking, it was my turn to respond, and rather than grant the desired forgiveness, I turned the discussion around, saying, “I don’t need to forgive you for your resentment towards me, which, by the way I knew nothing about. Rather, I need you to forgive me for hurting you.” That may sound exceptionally mature, I have confess, but my first response was a bit different. While listening to them explain the situation, my internal monologue varied from anger to you’ve-got-to-be-kidding-me-THAT-offended-you?. My pride wanted nothing to do with remorse, and it fought the good fight. Forgiveness isn’t an easy thing to ask for, it entails seeing the truth and, subsequently, a death of self. Forgiveness, after all, isn’t up to me or my willpower; it comes by the power of the Holy Spirit, of being drawn back to the truth that whether or not my friend was going to forgive me, God already had. And though in the end, I was somehow able to choke out the request for forgiveness, my original response was to remain oblivious to the truth and to thrust my friend’s pain back on him, it’s your problem, buddy, not mine.
1. I’m working on my dissertation, taking care of two active little boys, maintaining our house, providing for my husband, starting up a ministry for graduate students at church, assisting a professor with his theology class. Add to that all the crazy demand of the holidays. Between shuffling off to pageants and year-end festivities, making and purchasing gifts, and getting everything mailed out in a timely manner, my anxiety has peaked to an unbearable level. I can feel it physically, my heart skipping beats, my jaw clenching, my body crying out: you can’t do this alone, you’re not this strong. The anxiety exposes my frail humanity; I am forced, whether I like it or not, to look to the One who has called and rescued me out of activity into rest.
This year, from the big things to the small, I’ve been made aware (once again) that I am not in control, that I make (lots of) mistakes and say plenty of stupid things, and that I can’t handle as much as I think I can. In all of this, I’ve been tenderly and not-so-tenderly reminded that God is in control, that He sent his Son to die for my sins and be raised for my justification, and that He is my rest, my comfort, and my hope in the midst of my failures. And I have all of that by faith alone; no matter how many degrees I have or how long I’ve “walked in faith”, I never ever get tired of being reminded of that fact.