This past year has been one of the busiest and chaotic years to date. As you might know, my monthly posting schedule has been completely thrown out during December. Working a theme park is fun, but working during the holidays and as a new ride opens, it started to become more like hell for a few weeks. Kind of a fitting way to end a chaotic year with a bit more chaos on top. I’ve learned to adapt very quick over this year. It began with me not having my main youth pastor job, and my dearest Danielle and I searching for what was next. With an open door and a need to push ourselves out of our comfort zone, we made the move down to Orlando for Danielle’s Disney College Program. While job searching, I found myself processing a lot of hurts, my pastoring position wasn’t just a job; I had invested in the lives of a ton of students, so when I was let go, I didn’t really know what to do.
I didn’t belong, and I felt like I was letting those students down or abandoning them.
It felt like my purpose was pulled away, I had gotten wrapped up in a place and lost sight that no matter where God had me, I had purpose.
I have purpose.
My dear Danielle has a purpose.
Each of you have a purpose.
This period of being down in Florida and not yet having a job was incredibly lonely, no one really reached out from home. When Danielle was working, it felt like I was on an island, completely cut off from anyone. What I see now, is that the enemy was using my vulnerability to make me feel worthless. I started to believe this lie, a lie that I had “peaked” and that I would never have influence or the ability to lead. The thing I had to learn was that I, and we, need to stop believing things that contradict what scripture says about us. We are made in the image of God, and that means we have power, we have a calling, and we are so worth loving.
Every year I choose an attribute to focus on. It’s a similar idea to focusing on a word, but I want to have a word that I act on. Last year, dear Danielle and I chose the word, “dreamer,” a fitting word as we had a world of opportunity in front of us. It was such a powerful choice that set the tone for what was to come, we just wanted to run after something wild, a crazy adventure together. What an adventure it truly was.
We began to get connected, we met friends, I got a job playing in the world of Star Wars; it wasn’t perfect but it was an opportunity to stretch and grow.
When we thought about what this year would be, it was inspired by so much. We had been inspired to live in forgiveness of the past, see the beauty in the people around us, and strive to get back into a consistent relationship with a savior who loves us in imperfection.
Our word for this year is lover.
I’m inspired by people who have the ability to love, even in the face of hate. I think about the way Jesus chose to love all people, those who were looked down on, his friends, and those who sentenced him to death. That kind of love is radical, and it’s something I want to strive towards. I’ve always battled anger in my life; not always processing it in the best ways and often letting that anger of things build up. It’s not healthy. What I want, is to have the unconditional love of Christ. What I want, is to try and impact everyone around me. If I can be a positive light in the life of someone else, why would I ever choose anger over love? I’m not perfect, but I’m loved by a perfect God. I don’t want to let my emotions enslave me, I want to love others no matter what.
Every day I want to remind myself that I have a God who loves me, that I need to love myself, and that I need to love every person I encounter.
The enemy will always try to trick you into thinking you are lesser, but the truth is, you are a beloved child.
As I mentioned at the beginning, I doubted myself for a lot of this year. Feeling down about the influence I had and if people were actually impacted by anything I had done. A few weeks ago, a student from a small group I led was in town with his family. It was so good to not only see Jaxon, but to have him tell me that he really looked up to me. In a moment where I was feeling low, God used him to speak life into me. Then, recently, I had a chance to spend time with the Shafer family, some of the most loving people I have ever known. I got a chance to see two students I watched grow up, it was so encouraging to know that I played a small role in their growth and being who God designed them. This isn’t to brag on myself, it was a reminder to me that as long as I can make even a small impact in the life of another, God is using me.
God is using you.
You are not less-than, you are not the mistakes you’ve made, and you are not the person others have said you are.
You are unique, brave, and absolutely incredible.
As this year ends, whether it was a great year or a hard year, know that after every long night, the sun always rises.
This past year was all over the place. This year will most likely be another crazy adventure. What I need to remind myself of is that God is with me in every season; good, bad, and stressful. I want to cling to the lessons I’ve learned and remember the experiences that have made me who I am today. I choose this year to be a lover, one who loves the way Christ loved me. Regardless of mistakes or how much I try to perform, God loves me for who I am; in that same way, I want to be a lover of people. My dearest Danielle and I are on a path that is unknown, but the unknown means there are endless opportunities. Sure, next steps will always be scary, but we will choose to love, do the scary thing first, and get scared later.
Here’s to another year of being loved by God and growing in every way.
About the Author: Joshua Thomas is a writer by day and superhero by night. When he’s not writing and crimefighting, you can find him reading a good book, sipping warm tea, taking pictures, or dreaming. The young writer doesn’t fully know what he’s doing, but is enjoying the journey of it all. You can tweet memes at him on Twitter @joshua_thomas__ or follow his hipster photos and Jack Kerouac musings on Instagram @joshua_thomas__