I stood in this exact spot one year ago. Same time of year. Same wall, with the same vines, capturing the same image with the same phone camera at the same angle. Same time of day, just before the evening sun fades beneath the horizon. A lot of “the same”, if you haven’t noticed a reoccurring theme yet.
Similarly, I feel so much is the same with my life in 2020. Much more than I had hoped or dreamed, in fact. Same struggles with language learning. Same insecurities with acculturation and fears in relationship building. Same feelings of loss having left our family, friends and church community in the U.S. Even the same feelings of isolation being in lock-down during the seemingly unending global COVID pandemic. Everything feels so heavy, unmoving and unchanging. Discouragement easily sets in and it’s hard not to give way to the weighty pull of depression. Can you relate, or is it just me I wonder?
So, what compelled me to take a picture of the same spot exactly one year later, you might ask? Well, I don’t quite know the answer, to be perfectly honest. I think it was simply that I found the colors of fall so beautiful in this particular spot. Maybe it was even a small reminder for me that at least SOMETHING was changing… even if it was only the colors and the season. It was as if this photo was proof to me that the entire world (and my life) hadn’t come to a complete stand-still.
After returning home, I downloaded the picture from my phone. I decided to compare it to the one I took last year and much to my surprise, I was completely blown away! So much of what I thought was the same had actually changed. The wall, in fact, looked completely different. I had completely forgotten that last year the vines had only taken up a small percentage of the surface of the wall. Over the course of the past year they had grown to now completely cover it! Walking past them, almost daily, for the past year had somehow “hidden” the growth that was now apparent a full year later. Seeing the images now, side-by-side, the amount of growth was almost staggering.
What a wake-up call for my own life! Could it be that maybe… just maybe I have been growing too? What if some of the growth in my life, dependency on God, new relationships and even my progress with the language had been changing in such small increments, that I simply hadn’t realized how much area had been covered? Having placed the “pictures” of my life, now and then, directly next to one another it became apparent. Just like the picture of the vines, I could start to see how much growth had actually taken place to fill in some of the bare and uncovered areas. So much was not the same!
When we experience incremental movement day-by-day, it’s hard to see the greater movement over a stretch of time. But growth happens, even when we don’t immediately see it. God is doing things in, through and around us, little-by-little and it all adds up to growth, movement and change. 2020 has been a challenging year, but the good news is that we’re NOT the same. That’s an encouraging thought to me, and I hope it’s also encouraging to you.
“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer-self is wasting away, our inner-self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. ”
– 2 Corinthians 4:16-18