a call for authenticity: what if 2015 wasn't "the best ever"?

I love seeing everyone's "best of 2015" posts. I even made one of the "best 9" posts for Instagram yesterday, and I admit that it was fun to look back and see what some of the highlights of my year were. This year held a lot of important and life-changing moments for so many of my friends and family members, and for me as well. But while 2015 was a really good year for me, it wasn't perfect. There were ups AND downs, mountain tops AND valleys. And what I'm noticing is that both aspects of my life are not accurately reflected in my social media posts. This past year held many successes and victories, yes, but it also had it's fair share of struggles and tears. And today, as I scroll through my news feed on Instagram and Facebook, I'm reminded, more than ever, of one of the downfalls of social media: that we often only share the good, pretty moments, the high-points, and the successes. I worry that in our pursuit to display the best of what the year held for us, we may be isolating those who did not have "the best year ever". Because for many, 2015 was filled with as many painful moments as it was with joyful days.

Yes, I know so many people who had the "best year ever." Three of my closest friends had babies (and they are all adorable!!) , several got engaged or married, some moved across the country, some got their dream jobs or pursued new careers with renewed passion and purpose, some got promoted and got raises, bought houses and cars, some got baptized or re-dedicated their lives to Christ; and all of these things are beautiful and important and worth celebrating. But there are others who didn't have the best year ever, in fact, some who probably had the worst. I have friends and loved ones who struggled through heart-breaking seasons as everyone else spent their days celebrating successes and victories. I know people who buried their children, siblings, parents, or friends, some who lost jobs, some who ended relationships, some who embarked on new journeys and are still struggling through the adjustments, some whose lives were claimed by illness or the illness of someone they love, some who feel lost and alone in their career, their marriage, their church or their community, and some who spent day after day in the darkness of depression, darkness, or mental illness.

So while we celebrate and reflect today on the life-giving, joy-filled moments of 2015, I want to make it clear to those people who had years marked more by sorrow than joy that you are not alone. We see you, we love you, and your struggles are not invalid or invisible just because they don't make a pretty Instagram collage. While I think it's an important and God-honoring practice to count and share your blessings, I also know the value of walking hand in hand with Christ through seasons that feel filled with struggles more than anything else, and there is a part of me that wonders if sometimes we're not doing more harm than good by only sharing the pretty filtered parts of our story. It seems to me that social media, just like every other area of life, is one that would benefit from balance and moderation, in sharing both the good things and the bad.

Let me be clear: I'm not encouraging a movement of posting daily the bad things that happen to us. This would be a very depressing world if we only shared, focused on, or talked about the negative things in our lives. We need victories. We need to celebrate with those who are celebrating, encourage those who are winning, love those who are succeeding. So keep those posts coming. We want to hold babies and dance at weddings and eat delicious food and see pictures of your adorable children, your new houses, football games, graduations, concerts, reunions with friends and families, first days of school and work and marriage, trips around the world and pretty days at home. Sharing and celebrating these things are beautiful and necessary parts of any God-dwelling community. But we also need to be aware of and present for those who are not celebrating, winning, or succeeding as they enter 2016.

So if 2015 wasn't your best year ever, that's ok. It may not feel like it as you check social media today, but you are not alone. And there is good news! 2015 ends today, and what matters most is not what we leave behind, but what we choose to take with us as we move forward. So in 2016, I'm choosing to take with me the practices of authenticity and being present and focused on Christ as I, and those around me, traverse through seasons and seasons of pain. I want to create and be a part of a community where people feel as comfortable and safe sharing their joys as they do their sorrows. We live in a broken world, just as Christ warned us in John 16: "in this world you will have many troubles". He knew we would have struggles, pain, and heartbreak. But as we all know, He didn't leave us there, sad and hopeless, but instead He went on to say, "but take heart! For I have overcome the world." The thing is, "taking heart" looks different for everyone, and it changes as we go through the mountains and valleys of life. So this is me, saying that I'm "taking heart" with you and alongside you during 2016, in every season. Let's love, care for, and be authentic with one another during this next year, no matter what it holds for us.

Happy new year, everyone.

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