The Year the World Turned Upside Down

couple watching fireworks

 

2014 was the year I planned to topple walls and slay monsters. This was to be a year of dreams, a year where anything was possible. The year I stopped running.

 

Writing is hard; I discovered that. Writing forced me to face difficult questions that rarely had concrete answers. People didn’t always like my conclusions, and they occasionally told me. I learned the art of deep breathing while reading private Facebook messages and e-mails, graciously disengaging from pointless arguments and attempting to find elements of truth amid the ignorance.

 

I read a lot of books on writing. They told me not to compare my skills to other writers, but I couldn’t help it. Everything I wrote felt like crap, but it would take time to realize we all begin as crappy artists. Art becomes great after intense struggle and through many trials and errors. And yet people responded with such sweet kindness to my poor artistry. Sometimes an individual would message me for advice, but more often people reached out with their stories, just needing an understanding stranger to listen to their heartache and loneliness, but also their hopes and dreams.

 

Blogging gave me an opportunity to examine my motives. I found my heart was not entirely noble nor selfish, just a complicated mixture of the two. A blog can empower the silent and marginalized, people like me. I was the guy in the background so paralyzed by all my perceived flaws, and suddenly I was speaking and people were listening. Life held purpose, not just dreams. My words were helping people and occasionally the established writing community of faith noticed my existence. It was exciting until it became terrifying. Becoming a public figure meant finding an appropriate balance of being myself—but not too much, because, well, I’m kinda awkward, silly, and melodramatic. And wordy. Lord, am I wordy (not in person, mind you, just when I’m typing). But I digress.

 

Transforming from an awkward, quiet guy into a public figure was excruciating. I hoped people would finally see me, and would suddenly love what they saw. All those years of neediness became so apparent and oh so consuming. I misused many of the opportunities God gave me because I was still in victim-mode. Oh, poor celibate, lonely Seth. I expected other people to come to my rescue and fix that. Surely with a platform the ache could be repaired and the void filled. If I could only get into certain niches and belong in certain friend groups, then I could be content. I would be whole. I would become this suave fellow with the perfect script for every situation. However, I wouldn’t be Seth, the guy who listens and smiles more than he speaks. I’m a guy with a complete personality who doesn’t need to be molded and erased to belong. I’m already an actor with a part to play in God’s redemptive drama.

 

This was the year the world turned upside down. I battled my toughest insecurities and experienced a great deal of rejection and disappointment. But all through my life God has been forming a persevering spirit within me. For all the people who have hurt me, God has blessed me with family and friends who became my crutches until I could learn to walk secure in Christ. People may not like the man I became this year. That’s fine. I’m still a man very much in need of sanctification and spiritual formation, but I’m a man who found his voice and courage. More importantly, God taught me about rich, costly grace this year—grace for myself, a misunderstanding church, and for the conflicting and diverse convictions of my brothers and sisters in Christ. When I was troubled and didn’t know what to say, God told me to lean into the tension. When scripture presented a complicated and paradoxical deity, I took a deep breath and said ok. I looked to Jesus and trusted Him for one more day. When evangelicals spoke with black and white confidence and emergents spoke with gray mystery, I said ok. I continued to journey with my diverse friends for one more day. No more running.

 

I don’t know what to expect for 2015, whether this experiment crumbles, my blogging ministry expands, or something altogether different. I hope this year finds me at Regent, beginning my professional development as a clinical psychologist and learning to live transparently and honestly in community. But maybe that’s not God’s plan. Maybe this will be a year of reframing and rediscovering. Whatever happens, I hope to continue faithfully writing and listening. I hope to be more giving and less self-centered. I hope to become more human.

 

Thank you for reading in 2014 and may God’s presence and grace uphold you this new year. Shalom, my friends.

  • gabriel

    I’m back following your blog after a long absence due to health problems, and now I can see your personal and spiritual growth as really astonishing.

    I stopped running, you say. More simply, I think you’ve chosen life, liberty and your personal pursuit of happiness. And, in so doing, you allow other human beings to free themselves from their fears and feelings of inadequacy. You’re a saviour.

    “The truth will set you free”, we are told. And, quoting Marianne Williamson, “You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world… We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us… And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we’re liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others”.

    Being a Witness to the Good News can become a heavy burden, but beautiful nonetheless. I look to your life for inspiration, praying God to give me the courage to turn my weaknesses and insecurities and vulnerabilities in a gift of empathy and understanding.

    I’ve struggled with depression and social anxiety for too long. Your experience shows me it’s time to turn my world upside down and “”be more giving and less self-centered”. I, too, hope to become more human.

    Shalom, my friend
    Gabriel Jonathan

    • Thank you for the kind words! I’m glad my posts have been an encouragement for you. Take care, Gabriel.