2021 felt like an extension of 2020. Where the world had wishfully anticipated a new chapter, the year ended up feeling like an overly elaborated draggy essay that a college kid tried to write to meet the minimum word requirement. In short, people were disappointed.
But beyond that, people were exhausted. Mental health became the hot topic to talk about. Most were seeking outlets to release the stress that piled. Pivots needed to be made, because businesses were not doing too well, for way too long. It was a long year. But hey, we all made it through. (Pat yourself on the back!)
In 2021 I got used to smaller crowds, online meetings, speaking at webinars, and became the family’s private event organizer for all our intimate celebrations. T’was the year that I re-picked up knitting, badminton and golf, and started a new morning walk/catch-up routine with my best friend. As many others, health became somewhat of a personal concern and priority. For if we had learnt anything at all, through this pandemic, is that health is wealth indeed. Health is a gift we must steward better.
I also got myself fully vaccinated, finally travelled abroad again, and rebranded my fintech startup. That was bittersweet. But upon hindsight, a better strategy. At the close of the year, our College also finally obtained our license as a University. The timing of it all had been uncanny. Praise be to God.
Other milestones worth highlighting include the progress in my Sumba project. We began by digging up a well to provide the people with access to clean water, and by the end of the year, had begun setting up an after-school program and Sunday school there. Bible Translations, too, seemed to take on its course as the Lord had provided passionate fellow colaborers for the work. God is good.
The reason why I note these down is that these are all worth pausing for and celebrating. It had been a long, hard year for many. For most. Perhaps for all. But if you still have breath in your lungs today, you can echo the truth of God’s sustenance. He has never failed us.
But Providence proved to be all the more true, when I would ponder upon the brightest highlights of my year. For 2021 had been the year where I fell in love with a man whom I very much thank God for everyday. Our introduction was quickly followed by mutual interest, then a very long (or so it seems) long-distance relationship, before finally dating in-person. Adjustments needed to be made, for the both of us, who had been “single as a pringle” for a very long time, most of our adult lives. But the adjustments hadn’t been very difficult, either, for it seemed that the Hand who had penned our individual stories had, from the very start, known what He was doing.
“A match made in Heaven,” is what my sister would describe the both of us as. And although I do not want to be presumptuous, I cannot deny the awe I have at the unfolding of our little love story. For it must be, it must be Someone’s doing. The Author had done it all.
May I never lose this wonder–and so, must I pen this down. For humanity is forgetful, sick with amnesia. But my prayer is that as I re-read this letter to self, down years ahead, and even as you read this, too, today, our response would always, only be one: immediate, exuberant praise to Him who orders our lives to be.
To Him belongs all highest praise!
Dear future Jessica,
2021 saw itself to be the year where prolonged melancholy would befall most. What was centering and sobering in the past year, had become unto many, a source of insanity. One would think that the pandemic would pose as an opportune time for humanity to self-reflect and reoder our lives–but the longer the world was left in our own comforts of solitary confinement, self-centeredness heightened.
And where the self reigns, chaos is sure to come. Unexpectedly, this year, you’ve heard countless stories of others falling into an abyss of depression, of self-destructive choices and habits. You’ve heard, firsthand, countless stories of divorce, of infidelity, of ruthless waywardness. Some, by conscious decision-making, while others, by way of being “dragged away” by the currents as the conscience is dimmed with each passing day.
But truth be told, you must, too, rid of the log in your own eye (Luke 6:42). For have you not seen how easy it has been for you, to occasionally dim the voice of truth that would ring loud in your ears? The little nudge, the gentle prodding–how often do we shrug off the Spirit’s whisper, as we seek to indulge in what seems right in our own eyes (Genesis 3:6)?
When Scripture says “it is not good for man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18)–the warnings of isolation, and the desolation that would follow, would clearly unravel this past year. The pandemic has forced us all to individualism, to self-sufficiency, to curving inwards–and the effects thereof had been simply destructive: destructive to self, and to others.
What is then, the remedy? What must we do to lay down the weight of our own selfishness–or, as Augustine would put it, “incurvatus in se” (a life lived ‘inward’ for oneself rather than ‘outward’ for God and others)?
John Calvin writes, “I offer my heart to You, O Lord, promptly and sincerely.” And this, we must do, at all times, when the slightest curvature of our hearts begin to bend inwards, in on ourselves. For it is far too easy for us to consider ourselves of utmost importance, while others, merely a means of our ends.
How contrary is this to what the basic Christian doctrine teaches us? For Jesus had never mis-marketed Himself. The call of Christ had been, plainly put, “deny yourself, pick up your cross, and follow Me,” (Matthew 16:24).
Such has been the ringing lesson that the Lord has taught you all throughout the year, through the most unexpected gift of companionship. For what love does, is draw you out of yourself, as you now consider life with another.
(Note: however, the passage in Genesis 2:18 of “it is not good for man to be alone” is not to exclusively mean the necessity of romantic relationships. Rather, God has created all of mankind for community, with Him and with one another. Read more on my blog post on how the Gospel had shaped my singleness through the years here).
“I couldn’t sleep last night. I was both fearful and giddy. Fearful where this was all heading because Lord it seems too good to be true. I don’t know what to expect, I don’t know how all this will turn out…I am scared of being fully known. Only You fully know me, Lord.” (Journal, January 20, 2021)
Earlier in the year you were confronted with the statement: “I’d like to get to know you better.” Along with the excitement, crept in fear. For to be peeled back, layer by layer, is to grow in vulnerability, and that surely is a scary ask.
When people say, “trust is the foundation of a relationship,” and that “trust begins with transparency”–indeed, these were true. For echoing the words of Tim Keller, “to be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God.”
And so such were your prayers:
“As much as I want to be raw and open, Lord, also keep my heart so that I do not give away what is not mine to give. Help me tread on this new season with much grace, grace sufficient for every day… And if he is the one You have reserved for me, help me be patient in the unfolding.” (Journal, February 16, 2021)
To recall the words of the wise sage, we must not awaken love until it so desires (Songs of Solomon 8:4). And so even when the tugs of the heart were strong, and the curiosities of the mind wild, you knew you needed to promptly, offer your heart again to your Maker, your First Love.
For it is Him, to whom your whole heart belongs.
Now in the midst of your own treading on new grounds of budding romance, however, you were faced with many seeking advice on matters of infidelity and divorce. It made you fear all the more, whilst coupled with a certain resentment to why people were coming to you with their burdens. For now, they, too, would become yours to carry. You were, after all, one unable to neglect.
I prayed, “why are people coming to me with these [burdens]?”
And of course, the Gentle Rebuke, “but did you not pray to be in My service?”
Oh for surely, I did.
And in Your service, I shall be.
(Journal, February 27, 2021)
Yet amidst these little grumblings and fears, you must, again, offer yourself, promptly and sincerely, up to Him who searches the crevices of your heart. And if your whole heart, then, your time, your ears, your hands, your life.
For even the kind gift of companionship of a fellow sojourner, was neither for the purpose of self-fulfillment, nor a caving in to societal pressures and biological timelines–but rather, always, to the glory of the Author of it all. For He, who had brought you together, would fashion, not merely a tale of two, but both intertwined, in His Greater Story.
“Lord I can’t just praise You enough for the wondrous things You do. And all behind the scenes. You brought us to Yourself, You brought us to Your service. And that was how we met and found ours paths intersecting. Oh, I look forward to walking through these months ahead, years, if You will, with him, Lord. You’ve brought us thus far.” (Journal, February 27, 2021)
Dear future Jessica, you must remember this. Just as how every witness in court bears testimony of another before the jury, your love story, must, too, simply tell of Another: of Him who is faithful and true. Embedded in your deep love for one another, you must always remember that the both of you had first been enlisted in the service of the King. Do not let your sweet affections for one another dull your personal, individual religious affections. Just as the old hymn reads, “I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly trust in Jesus’ Name.”
You had found one another on your Heavenward journey. And as sweet as that story may be–Heavenward, still, must you trod on, even if, now, hand in hand.
I love him, Lord, I do. These days have gone by with him being on my mind constantly. I miss him, I wish he was here. I wish he could come home quickly… But I also know that You are still orchestrating all of this and to You I must resign. If it means I must resign my heart to You and allow You to pen it in a manner that teaches me patience like never before, then so be it, Lord. Let the longing only beckon me Heavenwards–always and always. (Journal, April 10, 2021)
For if you would recall those earlier months of loving a man from afar–the longings to finally be together with him would weigh heavily in your heart. In a similar manner, must you long for Heaven. So, must you continue to yearn to see Him face to face (1 Corinthians 13:12).
Has Scripture not been clear to tell us of how all creation groans (Romans 8:22) for the coming of the Lord? And in this same manner, must you continue to daily live, proclaiming, Maranatha! Come, Lord Jesus! (Revelations 22:20). At times when your heart has grown cold, remember this yet again. Pray that the Lord may etch Eternity on your heart (Ecclesiastes 3:11). Offer it up to Him again, promptly and sincerely.
If you would recall, the day you first met your earthly love. As your eyes met that night, no longer through the screens of your phones, but rather, finally, face to face…remember the excitement, the thumping heartbeats. Remember the fears of rejection melting away, and the unerasable grin on your face from cheek to cheek. Remember not wanting the night to end, not wanting to ever have to spend another day apart. Remember all that and give thanks, for this gift of companionship had been an answered prayer.
“I don’t want to move so quickly as to be reckless. I want to be thoughtful, prayerful, watchful, and especially [if] this is the foundation of walking towards the holy institution of marriage… I hope he becomes more intentional. In his questions, his approach, his comments. I hope I get to know him, and if You’ll allow it, to love him.” (Journal, February 10, 2021)
For then he had been: intentional. And for now you do: you love him. The Lord has allowed it. And the months have been sweet, in both knowing and being known, of loving and being loved by him.
And in approaching the seasons to come, perhaps at times, through spring and harvest, but surely, too, through deserts and valleys. Even as you would both trod along the unknowns, remain steadfast in the truth that your destination remains unchanged. Know that as you simply continue to journey Heavenwards, the worries of tomorrow may, too, be offered up unto Him, promptly and sincerely.
“I don’t know what is on his mind. But I do trust him, Lord. And above all, I do trust You. I trust that Your timing is always perfect, and You have always been orchestrating this from the start.” (October 9, 2021)
For in the end, as you bring into recollection the day that you first met your earthly love, no longer through screens, but rather, face to face. Remember that the joys, the excitement, the bliss and the affections felt…were mere glimpses to that Greater Day, when the both of you would see your First True Love, face to face (1 Corinthians 13:12)…
Well until that Day comes, dear future Jessica, remember to always, promptly and sincerely, offer your heart up, again and again, to Him whom your soul loves.
“I love how he pursues me, and how he lets me be myself with him. My filled-with-emotions-to-the-brim, wide-eyed, abstract self… And most of all, how I can be so raw about my pursuit of You with him, Lord. I love that the most.” (Journal, May 22, 2021)
Promptly And Sincerely Unto Him,
Jessica Tanoesoedibjo (2021)