I started 2016 with a brand new job that I love, in a field that I really enjoy, with my own office (huge windows!), and pretty decent coworkers. The year 2016 was a big, successful step in my career. I bought a house, too, and locked in a low rate just before the Fed (et al.) finally raised the interest rate. It’s a nice little home in an established neighborhood near an area of excellent development, so I’m reasonably set to enjoy rising property values. I completed some courses and finished some books that had been on my list for a while. I even did a bit of art.
In many ways, this year was a success. But other things happened that left permanent scars. These marks are now, irrevocably, part of who I am. But don’t think that I end the year with a gloomy disposition and a bitter heart. Far from it—I’m full of hope!
The first half of the year was spent agonizing over my decision to separate myself from friends who had been a huge part of my life in the previous year. I formally left their fellowship because the leadership was engaging in sexual immorality. Although this knowledge was public, it took me a long time to consciously acknowledge that the situation was so reproachable. I think this was due to confirmation bias: I was refusing to believe the evidence that there was a serious flaw in my group of friends. I really, really loved my time with them. I didn’t want to believe there was an issue so reproachable that I might have to separate myself from them. Well, it took a long time, but eventually I did come to terms with what I had to do for the sake of the name of Christ. With guidance from my church, I made the decision to leave. Some civil conversations were had; I am happy that I don’t regret how I conducted myself (if you know me, you know how I tend heavily toward harsh words), but I regret that discussions were ineffectual. My concerns were dismissed; they refused to call it sin.
I spent the second half of the year in a strange state of limbo, neither in denial nor acceptance of what had happened, trying to make sense of what I was feeling. The fact of the matter was not difficult to understand: I lost most of my friends, by choice. But I was completely unable to understand how I felt about it. In this confusion I acted strangely and felt horrible. See, I told my friends that I wanted to remain friends, and we really did try. I invited them to things, they invited me to things. I was alarmed to discover that the mere thought of meeting them made me feel dread. I was so confused! These were the people I had loved seeing. We had texted every day. They had been a Godsend to me: many friends in a city where I had so few. Well, maybe they went through a similar realization, or maybe they were just tired of someone that was always unhappy to see them, but they stopped contacting me. I don’t actually know what they think, but I did find words to describe what I felt and to explain why I behaved that way. Thyatira. Those friends are part of a church that tolerates open, ongoing sin. I don’t want Christian fellowship with them. Yes, that’s harsh judgment. I would not have confidence in that declaration on my own judgment, but my church is in agreement with me. Christ did not die to harbor unrepented, ongoing sin.
Confidence notwithstanding, the loss of friends made me depressed and angry for a long time. I couldn’t tell you how many hours I’ve wasted at work because I couldn’t stop obsessively thinking and raging. Only in November did I finally start coming to terms with these new permanent marks on my life, and I even began to forgive. Forgive the leader, forgive my old friends, forgive myself. I remember the first time it happened, too. It felt like a cloud had passed and the world became brighter.
It’s still a work in progress. I keep having to forgive and move on, and very often it has to happen multiple times per day. Even writing this year-in-review is a part of this recovery process. I’m looking forward to being done with it. I have most of the answers, and am beginning to feel no desire to think on them any more. A transformation from painful wound to tender scab, and now to inert scar. Wisdom and growth at a dear cost. It’s a big scar, too. I’m reminded of it when I think of custard, and white chocolate, and pickles, and cheese. When I think of the renaissance festival, and McDonald’s, and Cookout, and houses, and night shifts, and Japan. I remember everything when I notice it’s Tuesday. Tuesday! An entire day of the week, recurring for the rest of my life! The events of this year are now so deeply a part of me because I shared so much of my life with these friends. Without a doubt, this saga has been one of the most significant events of my life, and the single experience that 2016 will be remembered for.
The year 2016 was the year of loss, but my attitude is one of hope. The fact that I can look beyond this suffering is a huge victory, especially for me. And this victory is won by faith that my Father in heaven works all things for the good of those who love him. It has always been true in my life. It is a huge encouragement that I can clearly see how all my past suffering has been worked by God to benefit me, both now and eternally. It’s not difficult to believe that this year’s events are the same. In fact, one benefit is already evident: I know that I can choose well when given a choice between enjoyment in disdain of the will of God, and obedience at the cost of suffering.
I wish the year had gone differently, but I am OK with how it did go. I wish there had never been cause for division. I did the right thing, and it hurt, and I’ll do it again if I have to. I’m overcoming the suffering I had to endure, and, I believe, being transformed into a better, more loving person because of it. I am confident that this is the right attitude for both 2016 and 2017.