It is always an interesting experience to sit down and write about my word of the year, from the other side of the year. When I first learn my word, I’m excited, but often worried about what’s to come. And then in January of the following year, having lived through the ups and downs of both the year and the word, I often laugh at the naivety and anxiety, thinking to myself, you really had no idea what was ahead.
Needless to say, 2020 was unique in its ability to be unpredictable. For me, stepping into a new decade and the last year of my 20’s, I knew change was afoot. In fact, I felt like it had been closing in for quite some time. When I was given the word “faith”, I was confident that the year would be challenging, but I really had no idea of what sort.
Reading through my journal from the early months of last year, I can remember how restless I was. While I’d been anticipating the arrival of change, I was also impatient for it. There were parts of my life that I wanted to change, and I wrote about them in a demanding, desperate tone. I made empty promises to pray more and I set unfulfilled goals to spend more time with God—upset that neither were getting me where I wanted to go.
Then came March, where, on the 17th, I wrote, “well, the world has gone f*cking crazy…”
A true statement that was really only half true at the time.
A few days later, I started an entry with, “I really put my quarantine time to good use today—what an insane thing to write.” And the entries that follow are feverish, nervous, and overly sarcastic, trying to find comfort amongst the ever-growing panic around me.
In April, while knee deep in a puzzle that barely fit on our coffee table, my sister and I sat down to watch I Still Believe, a movie based on the life of Christian singer Jeremy Camp. In the movie, (spoiler alert!) his wife dies of cancer, after having previously believed she was in remission. It is a very hard, but very inspiring story, and I thought about it for weeks afterward, but that night, I wrote this:
“One part of the movie that struck me and that makes me tear up just thinking about it is the very last scene, where they show his late wife’s journal. There is a bible verse she circled that says, ‘do not be afraid,’ and next to it she wrote, ‘I won’t be! I will only believe!’ I can’t imagine that faith.”
It is the first mention of my word up until that point. And I vividly remember writing it out, underlining it, and then immediately bursting into tears. It wasn’t until then that I realized how far my mind had wandered. And in a world that had begun to make me spiral with questions—most prominent of which was “what do I do now?!”—this movie was a reminder to lean into that word—to have faith.
Now, 2020 was no stranger to heartache. And oftentimes I caught myself wondering and asking why? Why was this happening? A pandemic was running rampant, people were losing their jobs, their homes, and their loved ones. And in my own life, a string of medical scares had left my family feeling exhausted and terrified. Pain and chaos were coming in all directions and I was not only asking why but how? How I am I supposed to have faith when so much bad is happening around me? How can I encourage faith in others when I have no explanation for what is happening? How can I pray when I don’t feel like it will make a difference?
It was a constant struggle, a constant point of contention between God and I. And I fought my word hard.
But then I would always come back to that movie.
To that little entry Jeremy Camp’s late wife, Melissa, wrote in her journal. I couldn’t stop thinking about how much it meant to me. Someone she never met, never heard of, never knew would hear her story, let alone watch a movie about it and be so moved that it would restore my faith in faith.
And as the year went on, I started to realize that that is what faith is. Faith is believing that our lives, both the good parts and the bad parts, the explainable and unexplainable, have purpose. Faith is trusting that God has a bigger plan, and that we are all playing a part in its goodness—even when there is seemingly no goodness in sight. Faith is living through the why’s and the how’s and sometimes never getting an answer, but trusting that, perhaps in my struggle, I’m helping someone else find their answer.
I don’t know what 2021 has ahead for us, but I know that each day has meaning. That each moment you are brave enough to live out the life you have ahead of you, you are making a difference. That every up and every down matters. And that there is goodness—goodness that we cannot even imagine—up ahead for each and every one of us. So I encourage you on this day and in this year, to have faith. Have faith in the goodness. Have faith in the light even amongst the dark. Have faith in faith.
“Don’t be afraid. Just have faith.” – Mark 5:36