Today is my 13th birthday. Not in the traditional sense. I gave my life to Christ 13 years ago today.
In past years, I would celebrate with a night out alone, a longer quiet time and some solid reflection over the last year. But this year is different. The celebration of this year has to be different.
This year I went through a mental health crisis and came out alive. This year I was asked to leave a church during my episode. This year I was promoted at work and made peace with my biological father. This year I lost a relationship with two people I thought loved me. This year I went to Washington D.C. for the first time. This year I wanted to end my life. This year I survived.
Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. – Romans 5:3-5
The greatest privilege I will ever experience is suffering, because it binds me closer to Jesus. This year changed the game for me. At some point, suffering stopped looking like grief. It started to look like opportunity and growth. It looked like meaning. In the thick of chaos and shame, I began to see where God is leading me towards. I felt a responsibility to make the most of the shatters.
When I was in DC, I visited the Holocaust Museum. I heard stories from people who had walked tougher paths than me. At the end of the tour, I saw a quote displayed on the wall:
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me. – Martin Niemöller
This year has been a season of what could have been. What my life could have looked like if even just a few things had gone differently. That acknowledgement within my own story led me to ask “What do I do with that privilege?”
I’m so damn grateful.
That week in DC marked a shift in where I’m headed. My life became more about what I do with the privilege I’ve been given and less about the melancholy reflection of what I don’t have.
Privilege doesn’t always look like the able-bodied white male who has never known what it’s like to go hungry or struggle through systematic barriers just to get a job. Sometimes, it looks like the biracial woman with a disability who spent Christmas alone because she left her abusive situation in the middle of the night. More is expected of that woman than the man.
It feels like privilege. It feels like purpose and personal responsibility.
What a year.