Remember being a adolescent and that surreal experience of being so hungry, so tired, and continually feeling like an alien in your own body. There are these season where the growth spirt occurs so quickly that clothes don't fit, coordination becomes a distant memory, and your actual bones hurt. Growing pains! But then after that, season of awkwardness and pain, you look back and can't believe that you went from being a child to an emerging adult.
When you look at this picture you can see that my kids are on the verge of this experience. My son is 12 and my daughter is 9. They are children, but soon, too soon, everything will change. Things will get difficult as they navigate their new bodies and brains and I cope as a parent. Then in the almost near future they will become these incredible emerging adults who will be embarrassed of this picture and the reminder of how quickly and awkwardly this process happens.
For our family, and for me personally, 2016 was a year of brutal growing pains.
I look back at last year and I feel like I am looking at a picture of myself from my tween years and over 1 year, 365 days, I have grown into an old man. Not to be overly dramatic, but this was an intense year of growth for me and for my family. And upon reflection that growth was needed, painful, and used by God as He is bringing me into a deeper stage of maturity.
Truthfully, I am glad that we never completely grow up. In fact some of my least favorite people are those who have decided that they no longer need to grow and develop their minds, bodies or souls. But the people who expect growth, who expect transformation, who lean into the growing pains and count it all as opportunities for spiritual formation, another opportunity to see how God truly does work for the good of those who love Him and have been called according to His purpose, are the ones that I run after, learn from, and long to be.
There is no need to be voyeuristic in my year of pain, hardship, challenge, (fill in the blank with another synonym for difficult), but my growing pains have had the opportunity to touch just about every part of my life. My marriage, my kids, my church, my job, my walk with God, my body issues, my heart, my mind, my soul; all of it has been under assault this year, and in all of it, God has used it for his glory and purposes.
I always laugh when I see the shirt or bumper sticker that says that "Pain is weakness leaving the body." There is something bold about looking into the face of pain and not flinching. I am so pain averse, our culture is so pain averse. Yet the gospel gets worked out, our faith expands into the depth, and our grace and humility become front and center when we see hardships and pain as places for spiritual growth that will lead towards maturity.
Looking back through this year I can see that God has been good and faithful to use and redeem every single thing that has happened in and around me. Just like my poor kids who are about to enter adolescence, the process often is brutal. But what lies at the other side is truly incredible.
As we wrap up the book of 2016, I am glad to stick this one on the shelf. I am thankful to God for his gracious hand and for leading me along this journey of life and faith. I am thankful that God is maturing me in ways I never imagined and is continually expanding my horizons of what this life of faith is all about. I am beyond grateful for my wife and kids, for our dear friends and family, and for the church that God has planted us in to live, and move, and have our being.
May you have a Merry Christmas and find joy and comfort as you celebrate the birth of our savior Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace. And as you reflect on this least year and lean into this next year, may you find yourselves maturing more and more into His image. And, may Jesus Christ, the author and perfecter of our faith, get all the honor and glory both now and forever more. Amen!
Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. Romans 5:3-5