I started 2018 with just three words – faith, communication and service. I had come to a tough realization that my performance-based goals were not serving my highest purpose and committed my year to a quest for balance and grace.

My theory was this: that loving others first and foremost is really the essence and energy of living. In a world that preaches self-love, the fundamental belief is that you cannot give energy to others unless you give to yourself first: “You can’t draw water from an empty well,” they say. And so everything from fitness to business to personal hygiene in today’s world rings the sentiment of “You” and offers methods of exploring and enhancing inner space – a vortex of selfish pursuit sold as a recipe for awakening and living one’s “best life” or “best version.” I had pursued this as intensely and blindly as anyone.

In 2017 I had a profound, yet unpopular revelation – that the empty spaces within me could never be fulfilled by my own self. I realized that my inner space, at best, was an illusory escape and that I was not my own ultimate source of peace. Instead I encountered a spirit of Peace from a realm I had never known (or forgotten) into spaces I had never felt. Against every grain of my being, I realized in a single moment that the answer to my exposed emptiness was in searching the mysterious story of Jesus. Unpopular indeed.

So what if I did things differently? Could I tirelessly pour into other people and keep it going? Do I really need to “love myself” or is there truly a personal, loving God of the universe who will sustain me with an unworldly energy if for testimony, worship and service? Is there a truth to the proverbial fountain of the Psalms? Can energy increase by spending it purely? Is there a Love that outweighs all other love?

I’d like to believe that in 2018 I practiced some of the qualities of the greatest story of love and humility this world has ever known. I did at least do my best to test out my theory. But what I really learned wasn’t about “my” capability for these honorable character traits, but where I fall short – I noticed where I was impatient, I saw where I was proud and I realized just how much I needed the saving grace of the real deal himself.

In adventuring with my elderly friend Evelyn, I learned about the importance of change and was catapulted into the storms of aging with my own grandparents. I stopped being an “athlete” and quit my dream job in exchange for a whole new way of seeing the world. I survived a car crash and a boat run-over, both of which should have been my death and experienced a miracle in the quiet moments that followed. I moved, twice, and I wandered into my childhood memories at God-camp to befriend a bird named Destiny. I dreamed big dreams – I dreamed of where I was, I dreamed of where I might have been, and I dreamed of where I might go. I learned to speak the secret and beautiful language of Alzheimer’s and that dancing “is better on a table,” according to my grandma. I cried a lot and I laughed even more at what a beautiful mess that reality created just to gift me by these three powerful words.

From all extrinsic accounts, 2018 has not appeared to be “my best life.” I have no accomplishments to mark the calendar with as in years past. But when you turn the world inside out the way that Jesus did, you realize that your best life has nothing to do with either your inner or outer space at all. True joy is in relationship and the highest honor I could live is to give and keep giving and never stop. It simply isn’t about me (or You).

Here’s to the attentions of 2019 to be given to all I that have learned in observing 2018. The best is always yet to come.

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