I picked up the tube of mascara that I normally forgo every morning. Waterproof. I don’t need waterproof. I don’t plan on crying today. At least, I don’t feel stressed enough at this moment to warrant an overflow of emotion at the end of the day. But the other tube is empty. Actually, I can’t unscrew it because dried mascara has cemented it shut, so I threw it in the trash. Waterproof it is.
By the end of the day I’m scrubbing coconut oil on my 30-year-old eyelids, annoyed by the extra step this waterproof (unnecessary so far today) mascara is. I wash it away with face wash. Splash water on my face. I stand up tall to look in the mirror to make sure I got every bit, and it’s like my fingers snapped. Something clicked in my mind. Ten seconds have passed, and yet I’m realizing something fragile and true. With the snap of my fingers, clarity descended.
Before this year began, I had restlessness in my mind and my heart. Change was coming quickly, and I could feel it like an impending earthquake ready to dismantle what I’ve always known. Obviously, I didn’t anticipate…anything that this year entailed. But I did know something was changing in our life. I just didn’t know all the ways it would unfold.
To utter the truth, I didn’t know that 2020 would involve leaving our church home for a new one or leaving our community and friends for new people. I did know that God was calling us. But I am reluctant, stubborn as ever when change means taking action. Staying in the comfort of what we have always known was and is the safer option. It requires no risk. I can plan for it, line up my expectations, and live my life with little change. But God. We were called to leave. In the middle of a pandemic. I don’t know if that’s kindness or cruelty, but it felt like both some days. Everything we ever knew about familiarity, community, and the church body was thrown out the window. We had entered new terrain.
This year has also meant forgoing any (and all) of my plans. I am an empathetic person, and more often than not, I will do what works best for others. That’s not always a valuable characteristic. It depends on the situation at hand. This year has pushed me farther and farther to care for the needs of others. Where I thought I was compassionate, I have realized I am not. Where I thought I cared for my neighbor, I realized I didn’t really. This year has pushed me further: to be more like Jesus, more like His selfless, giving spirit.
As I rubbed the waterproof mascara from my eyes and looked at that woman in the mirror, I recognized her. The unidentifiable purpose for a year like this one had finally snapped into clear view. In a matter of seconds, I noticed it. Everything simultaneously felt flipped upside down and turned right side up. What has felt like a purely sacrificial year, a year of giving up everything, has been and will continue to be a year of preparation. Preparation for everything that God has meant for me.
And yet it feels nothing like preparation. What is preparation actually looks so mundane, boring, and inconsequential at this moment. Or it looks like everything that benefits everyone else except me. It feels like torture to do all the things I don’t want to do, pushed to my limits to do things against my nature in order to survive. It’s like trying to remove my waterproof mascara. Changing these habits of who I always was and who I thought I was meant to become…requires more than just water to cleanse. Sometimes it takes multiple steps to get rid of what has always been to make way for something new.
It’s getting closer to December. It has felt like the longest year of my life and the most difficult. Amen? We are all feeling some type of way. It is all hard, all testing, and all important. Every feeling that passes through me feels like wildfire or salt in wounds. Some days I don’t know how I’ll make it farther and farther. Yet here we are, months and months later, with a life that felt like it was hit by an earthquake, habits, and comforts upended that we’ve kept for years.
I don’t have any robust encouragement for you today. Saying that 2020 is a year of preparation might be true, but it doesn’t mean I’m going to make a plan to do all the things. It just means that while it is all hard, it doesn’t mean it is all for naught. When I find myself in the kitchen making something for my kids, I’ll turn the music up louder and sing to Jesus a little be more. I’ll cry when it feels like I need to and maybe even when I don’t. I’ll pray like my life depends on it because it does. And I’ll change. I’ll keep changing. I’ll wash off the old and find that newness there, too. Maybe it won’t be as pretty or put together as it was before. But at least it will be me. At least it will be true.