Contrary to what Taylor Swift tells me how to feel, Saturday came and went just like any other day. The only difference is, this time I am right back at the heart of the very city I took my first breath in, also it was a sunny 80 degrees in the middle of January and I spent it on the beaches of Santa Monica. At the end of a margarita-filled weekend, I laid in bed reflecting on the last 365 days and just how much I’ve been through. It doesn’t feel like it standing at this end of the tunnel now, but 21 dragged me through the crappers. Yet all I can marvel at is the new revelations unveiled to me, the hunger and thirst that grew for chasing after His heart, the resiliency and pride for not wanting to admit defeat, and the fullness of joy and contentment that came with a heart so filled to the brim by what can only be described as His glorious grace.

I started off the year in the midst of confusion and frustration at the brokenness of two bodies of communities I loved. The falling apart of both of these, having come at the heels of each other, gave me the tenacity to look at the devil square in the face and fight him tooth and nail to keep whatever I could hold onto. Through a friend and mentor’s urging, this period of brokenness also introduced me to who would quickly become one of my favorite writers of all time, Dietrich Bonhoeffer. That was January. I lost “friends” (I still don’t exactly know my relationships to these people..hence I’m using quotations), I confronted individuals, I know very well that I probably hurt some in the process, I watched what are supposed to be my two foundations of Christian communities spiraling. I turned 21. Very quickly after that, I lost my grandma, which the parallel events to my grandpa’s death is so uncanny and to the tee that there’s no way God’s hand wasn’t involved. I became even more frustrated over this period of time, I went home for spring break and didn’t see my parents, and I wouldn’t again pretty much until midway through the summer. I attempted to reconcile what I was learning with what I was experiencing and was shut down and hurt almost immediately. I grew even more hurt and confused and frustrated. I wanted out. Then I debated back and forth plans for my final semester where my decision was banking on a hope that was not guaranteed for me; I went for it anyways and still did not get it. I decided through the process that though it feels more painful now, God was enough. I then tried selfishly to go to Cape Town, didn’t happen and I ended up in East Asia for the summer. I came home and saw my friendships and relationships get stretched in ways I didn’t expect nor was prepared for. My brother broke his arm (again, timing was another huge thing here) and that sent me down a spiral of meticulously over analyzing every single one of my relationships and intentions. I went into my final semester at Ithaca full of scars and full of joy from the ways God revealed Himself to me and healed me, then I was reminded that in real life, situations and relationships are much trickier than one makes it out to be, and then I was stuck.

But the very best part about this giant mess of a year, is the joy I felt and received when I watched someone understand the truths of the Gospel for the first time; the wonder and awe when certain foundational truths were finally being spoken to my heart; the look on the faces of the girls I would later disciple and love so dearly; the nerdy love for the Old Testament scriptures and everything that has to do with it, the labor of finally directing my first fiction film with my thesis; the hunger and thirst to be deeply rooted in His Word.

So, here I am, having gone through all of that over the last 365 days, living in a city I spent my whole life dreaming about but so unsure of now, away from the many meaningful relationships I’ve built, and away from places I’ve called home over the last 4 years. Honestly, I’m not sure where my home is anymore. But if there’s any advice 21 year old Sam can give to 22 year old Sam, it’s that I still don’t have it together in any way, shape, or form. It’s the experiences in the valleys that make me appreciate so much more the triumphs on the mountaintops. Through it all, I can finally say that no matter the cost, Christ is worth more than anything that has ever come my way. He is the founder and perfector of my faith, and he is the one who sustains. I’m not lying when I say that I’ve prayed over the course of nearly a month before the end of last semester, for God to take me away from this world. I know a life of following Christ doesn’t call us to a peaceful and happy end, but if there ever was a time I felt so satisfied and ready and even wanting to leave this physical earth, the end of 2014 would have been it.

In any case, here’s to 22. A part of me has died (or at least come and gone), and I’m back to where all of this started. In a way it feels like a sort of rebirth, a second chance, and I pray that this new life will only bring me more brokenness and joy.

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