In a few days I will turn 30 years old.
Needless to say, I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting and looking back on my life thus far. I think about the good things that have happened to me: the friends I have made, the degrees I have earned, and the places I have traveled to.
But if I am honest, it’s my failures and dashed hopes that commandeer my thoughts as I inch closer to the next decade of life. I am haunted by the friendships I’ve lost as a result of my own selfishness. I obsess over the many opportunities I have squandered. My mind repeats over and over the criticisms I have received, many of which, although harsh, were also true. I have disappointed a lot of people in my life.
I’m the type of person that has so much potential but never seems to actually quite live up to it. I remember vividly the many dark days I’ve had over these last 30 years and the many times I wasn’t sure I would survive. In fact, if I were to be honest, I never thought I’d live to see 30. And now that I am almost 30, I am preoccupied by the following questions: what have I accomplished in the last 30 years? Does my life have meaning?
I look at the lives of those around me and success and I see people thriving in their academic careers, people with partners/or spouses, people whose lives seem as if they are moving forward and I’m stuck spinning my wheels, never quite getting ahead. I look back on my life and I can’t help feeling that I’ve made all the wrong choices. Not surprisingly, in the midst of all this reflecting and second guessing, depression as wormed its way into my life.
It also doesn’t help that I look around me and see a world filled with hatred, racism, sexism, and violence. There is darkness all around me and within me. I feel lost.
And yet, even in the midst of all this self-doubt, a stubborn hope persists that makes me believe that God has only just begun to work in my life. This stubborn hope forces me to look at myself and the world with new eyes. Instead of a disappointment and a failure, this hope tells me to see myself as a beloved child of God, trying to figure out her place in this world.
Instead of being immobilized by the hatred and violence in the world, this hope tells me to look for those trying to make a difference in the world. This hope encourages me to open my eyes and see the numerous people fighting for a world where refugees and the undocumented are welcomes with open lives, where black lives matters, where hunger is a thing of the past, and war is a bad memory.
This hope demands that I think deeply about the meaning of advent and what it means to proclaim the good news. What does it mean to say God is with us?
15-year-old Naiomi would confidently say that “God with us” means Jesus coming to earth with the sole purpose of dying a violent and horrific death, so that we could all avoid hell and go to heaven.
30-year-old Naiomi would say that believing that God is with us means envisioning a God that journeys with us during our darkest days. It means believing that no matter how bleak things seem in the world around us that God is working to bring new life.
Believing that God is with us means actively waiting for God’s promises of justice to be fulfilled. Passive waiting entails sitting around expecting things to happen to us. Actively waiting means working towards a better world in the expectation that such a world is possible. Active waiting entails believing that our lives matter and that God is using us to bring about change.
It means trusting that the last 30 years of my life were not a waste.