At the end of 2011, I prayed for a word that would serve as a marker for the shiny new year of 2012–sparkling with adventure, promise, and wonder. I thought for days, and the word that settled, the only one that kept ringing in my head, was “find.” (You can find that blog post here.)
Find. Okay, I thought. I can do that. I can find something. I mean, I had 365 days, right? I would be travelling to the other end of the globe for a couple months. Surely I would find whatever big thing Jesus had for me. For some reason, I always think it has to be this “big thing.” Fireworks, flyers, and neon signs included. Oh, what a small box I fit Him in.
I did find a lot of things this year. I found that I love Lay’s Seaweed chips. I found that living in community is really hard but really worth it. I found that I don’t need anywhere near the amount of clothing that I thought I did. I found that, try as I may, my GI tract is not a fan of Thai curry. I found that public transit is not as scary as I thought it was. I found my voice, found that my words matter. I found the immense power in the prayers of the faithful. I found so much beauty in so much simplicity.
I also found that the world is a much darker place than my wide-eyed and fresh-faced nineteen year old self really understood as I prepared all winter and spring for a summer working with a ministry in Thailand that seeks to eradicate the sex trade. Things change in your understanding of reality when red light district vendors continually invite you to live sex shows, when they show you a menu of fetishes and even encourage you to “mix and match,” when you watch the women you call sisters trapped in an industry that continues to commodify them by way of empty men swimming in entitlement and hard alcohol.
I found that I have this tendency to run away all the time, from people just as much as from responsibilities and circumstances. I shut people out. I shut myself out. I shut God out. I found that I struggle to understand and accept the truths He says about me, that it requires absolutely all of me to push forward and believe Him despite the lies that echo with familiarity.
But mostly, I found that no matter what, nowhere I run is too far from my Father.
As 2012 comes to its close, I think about all that I have seen, all that I have experienced. I think about every woman I know who works in one of Thailand’s largest red-light districts; women I have shared laughs with, have played some intense games of Jenga and Jackpot with, have held hands with and called friend. I think about two extremely different but equally challenging semesters in college. spring and fall, and how Jesus met me in both places regardless. I think about talking six of my friends through getting exquisite and meaningful tattoos on our last weekend in Thailand. I think about busses and motos and tuk-tuks and the crazy slumber party that was living with and loving my teammates, day in and day out, for two solid months. I think about adventures in chaotic night markets, mornings at warm beaches, afternoons lazily spent on balconies, and evenings at Starbucks with friends who take such good care of me. I think about the immense blessing of flying out to visit good friends, of gracious families that have accepted me as one of their own, of the good thing that is simply sitting together, even if no words are said.
And I am completely overcome by the goodness of God, even in the midst of inconceivable brokenness.
I wrote in that blog post last year that I hoped to find Jesus in a new way this year. And I absolutely did. But if I am honest, I don’t think this year was so much about me finding something as it was about me being found. Before I could find Him, He found me. He met me exactly where I was, scooped me up–messy, broken, bruised–and called me His. Even when I was defiant. Even when I didn’t trust His heart. Even when I tried to run. It is true that He has always had me, but only when I had finally put myself in a posture to receive whatever He had for me did I allowed Him to come close. Because He is the ultimate gentleman, and never pushes or forces Himself on people, even though He loves us infinitely and knows He is the best possible thing for us.
I am learning that no matter what, He is my Father. My Protector. My Provider. My Advocate. My Healer. My Savior. My Best Friend. My King. My Promise. The Keeper of my heart. My Defender. My Inspiration. My Pursuer. My Strength. My Hope. My Light. My Stability. My Everything.
And this is what He says about me: I am loved. I am safe and secure in Jesus. I am royalty. I am desired. I am forgiven. I am enough. I am irreplaceable. I am sought after. I am called Daughter. I am worthy. I am covered by His grace. I am a bringer of the Kingdom. I am strong. I am new. I am lovely. I am treasured. I am adored. I am accepted (quirks and all).
I am found and I am found again. Like mercies new every morning, His promises stand.