o wandering sheep: reflections on 2017

As the year comes to a close, here is my customary letter to self, reflecting on the year 2017.

Last year I took a pause on posting a letter that I had written to my future self of the things that I have learnt in the past year. 2016 had been a difficult year, as I learnt both grief and forgiveness—the extent to which, had trickled towards this past year as well. 2017, especially, had been one filled with various kinds of sorrows—those that were mine, as well as those of others.

And so more than ever, I have seen myself to truly be a melancholic soul. Though of course, there were times of joy in the course of the year, it would not last for long. The pursuit of happiness had become meaningless, as I began to accept sadness as a prevailing genre over my life.

Yet what had consequently been a most sweet consolation had been, that in those places my Comforter never left me alone. It is in times of grief, times of desolation, that He never neglected this helpless child. And so in the close of 2017, may we come to know this timeless truth that the Lord remains unchangingly faithful, indeed.

Dear (future) Jessica,

The year 2017 had been a time when you finally (praise the Lord!) closed your chapter of attending seminary—a dream come true, for sure. The Lord’s faithfulness has definitely been a prevalent theme at play throughout the year, as you witness the deep longing of your heart to embark on this journey to finally come to pass. He had been kind to let you come thus far.

It also had been a great time of deep contemplation—a recalling of where you were and where you are. The journey had returned to a full circle, as your last semester mirrored your first—loneliness had dawned, as most of your closest friends had left the country a semester prior to your own graduation. Yet what it brought to mind was the fact that seminary had become a season of prolonged solitude with the Lord. A time of a redefining of your identity as a child—and what a sweet time had it been.

Yet because you seem to always have your head in the clouds, there were plenty of times when you’d feel like an outsider, while being surrounded by people. Although you’d be roaring in laughter with the rest, there always remained a residue of sadness somewhere in your heart. These would be times when you’d feel like the “party pooper,” if you were to be transparent with your emotions. So you keep them to yourself, and you play along. Then later when you would wind down at the end of the day, you’d often find yourself exhausted—you’d come to realize how empty the pursuit of happiness had become.

Nonetheless, this year you’ve wrestled a lot with yourself regarding who you are—envious of those who seem to have happiness come by so easily, and discontent with your own melancholy. If only you were less depressing to be around, perhaps others would find your company to be worth looking forward to. If only you were a joyful person, perhaps you wouldn’t make Christianity seem all too uptight, rigid and dull. Oh, the times you’ve prayed and wondered about how much of a disappointment you have been to not be able to exemplify joy. For is that not the fruit of the Spirit?

“…such heaviness of heart had been a gift, a grace, indeed.”

Yet to then find moments when you would instead be able to sit with those who are in seasons of sorrow in their lives—you would find that such heaviness of heart had been a gift, a grace, indeed. Amidst a crowd filled with glee, you would be a suffering person’s company. And though you surely despised your melancholy, it is in these rarities of being given the opportunity to weep and pray with others in their griefs that your own sorrows had become worthwhile.

For it is in those moments that you have been given a glimpse into your own Maker’s heart. Your Maker who so kindly and humbly took on flesh as He stooped down to our helpless estate. In our desperation, the Lord is near, indeed. Scripture teaches us that the Lord is close to the broken-hearted, and that He does not despise the heavy-ladened. Instead, He beckons us to come to Him—for He is ultimately the greatest Comforter of all.

“The Lord is near to the broken-hearted, and saves the crushed in spirit.” – Psalm 34:18

Oh Jessica, may you be reminded, each time you read this, that your sadness in itself is a gift. How the Lord had been kind to allow you to feel sorrow to an extent, that perhaps is a glimpse into what perfection our hearts are supposed to groan and yearn for. That although it might be exceptionally exhausting to be a sponge soaking up others’ pains as they share their burdens—oh how you have been given a chance to contemplate Christ! For He is the one who ultimately had taken all our griefs upon Himself. The Shepherd who came as a Lamb to be slaughtered, on behalf of the sheep that had gone astray.

Must you know—you are that sheep. The sheep who had wandered away. Yet He went to find you where you were, to bring you back into His fold again.

And grieve Him, you have, each time this heart of yours wanders away. Each time you are enticed to the things of this world, every desire of yours that departs from His standard of perfection. Oh, those bitter thoughts, selfish intents. You know what goes on in that murky heart of yours. Must you know—the Spirit is grieved. Oh how He grieves at the slightest hint of sin.

“…He is the one who ultimately had taken all our griefs upon Himself. The Shepherd who came as a Lamb to be slaughtered, on behalf of the sheep that had gone astray.

Dear Jessica, I pray. That as you learn to embrace your sorrowful heart, you learn to be grieved by sin—not just as you look around, but especially as you look to your own inner heart. For that is how you may sit and grieve with another, not merely in their pains, but in their sins as well. That is how you learn compassion on the other—as you come to see that you, too, have been tempted in the same way. That you have likewise sinned, and have likewise grieved the Spirit. Learn to sit with another, knowing that none of us are truly victims, but rather, perpetrators.

And this is how you are to forgive. To the person who had caused much grief in your life these years, and in the years to come—know that you must first and foremost be grieved by that person’s sins against God, before grieving the sin that person had committed against you. If only you knew the extent to which any sin grieves the Lord—may you come to know the depth of His forgiveness.

“Learn to…know that none of us are truly victims, but rather, perpetrators…may you come to know the depth of His forgiveness.”

Praise God for the work He has been doing in your life, and in your heart, these past years. That though your chapter of being in seminary comes to a close—know that this call to come and confide in Him, who is your sole Comforter, has no end.

O wandering sheep, know that your Good Shepherd is faithful to bring you home.

Jessica Tanoesoedibjo (2017)

a poem: o wandering sheep.

O wandering sheep, must you know—
Your Good Shepherd seeks to bring you Home.
Kindly, humbly, gently—He came,
As a Lamb instead, delivered in a manger.
Led to the slaughter, born to be slain—
He took the place of you, O wandering sheep.

Little one, oblivious, indeed, you must know—
The Man of Sorrows is His Name,
Having acquainted Himself with your griefs, your pain.
As a sacrificial offering, bearing the sins and shame
Of those who seek Him not—He took the blame.

For faithful is this Good Shepherd,
Who seeks to bring His lost sheep back to His fold.

O wandering sheep—He carries you Home.

2 thoughts on “o wandering sheep: reflections on 2017

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