The highlight reels of 2015 are everywhere. I’m watching my friends and family put together a “best of 2015” via pictures, videos, and song. And I am reliving their lives right along with them…babies and marriages and graduations and books and cross-country moves and all the things that make up life. It moves me to tears when I know the full story behind some of the images: the health threat of the now healthy infant; the setbacks that didn’t deter graduation; the marriage crisis that resulted in an even stronger union. The images may reflect the “happy” end result, but the stories behind the images are much more complicated.
2015 was not a good year for me. If I put together a highlight reel, it would showcase disappointment, rejection, loss, failure, betrayal, and grief. This year, my losses outweighed my gains and my sorrows outnumbered my joys. And I have to give myself permission to say this, raised as I was in a tradition that taught me to “count my blessings” but to ignore my pain. I fully acknowledge that every day brings something for which we can be grateful: food on the table; good health; shelter from the cold; or just the reality that we are alive one more day. But there are seasons of despair and grief…there are seasons in which we lament, as in Zechariah 13, that we have been “wounded in the house of a friend” and betrayed by those we love most.
As the year closes, I’m learning not to rush past this pain so that I can present a rosier view of my life. I don’t want to choose the images that only present me at my best or during my highs, when I know that the “lows” also make me who I am. The tears I have shed this year, even this very week, are a part of my essence. This year, I have truly doubted God’s love for me. I have cursed and raged against situations outside my control. I have allowed anger and unforgiveness to linger in my heart. The smiling selfie on all my social media pages and websites has more often been a façade than the truth. Moments of genuine joy, moments of feeling loved and cherished, have been few and far between. And yet…
I have witnessed the sunrise almost every morning of this year and I have sat in the peaceful stillness of the dawn, when all things feel possible. I have written words and spoken truths that I hope have encouraged others. I have loved others fiercely, even when my own cup was empty or that love was not returned. I have tried…and even when I failed, I have tried again. And maybe that is simply all any of us can do.
There is a vulnerability in admitting your lowlights, since we are taught to always put our best selves forward. We are taught to take a million selfies until we capture the perfect one that we wouldn’t mind sharing with the world – the perfect lighting, the perfect smile, the perfect pose, and the perfect backdrop all illuminating our “best side.” But maybe we should share that imperfect picture: the one where we look tired, or our bad side is showing, or our hair is a mess, or our smile is absent. Because if we shared those imperfect images of ourselves more often, someone else might know that he or she is not alone. You are not alone. Even when our images reflect the reality of disappointment and despair, we are still made in the likeness of God.