I remember telling J on his 33rd birthday 2 years ago, “It’s your Jesus year, babe!” He kinda raised his eyebrows and opened his mouth incredulously, then asked jokingly, “Uhh, why? Is it because I’m going to die?”
We’re not going to talk about how long it took me to make that connection, but once it clicked, I wondered: why was this “Jesus year” a thing?
I wasn’t curious enough to find out or care for long though, until two years later, when I finally came upon my birthday eve (which was yesterday, for the record). Almost 33. My Jesus year? But why?
Off to the engine that has all the answers.
“33 Jesus year meaning.” That’s what I typed in the Google search bar, and here’s a portion of the highly scientific, deeply researched info that came up: “The Jesus Year is the age in which young people decide it is time to get serious about life, time to accomplish something.”
I literally chuckled. What does that even mean!? Who determines what “young” is? “Getting serious” is highly relative, and what counts as an “accomplishment?”
I contemplated this further as I abandoned my Google search to wash my locs, because I figured that no matter what conclusion I came to, I should start my 33rd year with clean hair.
I considered J’s morbid, albeit accurate quip about Jesus’ 33rd year being marked by death. And he’s not wrong. But is that primarily what we remember it by? There had to be death in order for there to be resurrection. And last I read, Jesus didn’t endure the cross, despising it shame, because he finally hit some realization that it was time to “get serious” about his life now that has getting older. It wasn’t because up to that point he’d lived a life of wasted years and “yolo” moments, and now really needed to make something of himself. Year 33 was simply the fulfillment of time of the ultimate plan of the Father for His life. Way more significant than this year representing the beginning of the end, it was the beginning of new beginnings. It was a promise kept. It was hope for a future for all who would believe in Him.
I can’t lie, part of me feels like this whole “Jesus year” idea is pretty man-centered. I mean, how are you going to take this event, this eternity-altering year, and focus on personal fulfillment and individual impact on the world? The other part of me thinks it kinda makes sense though. Birthdays are like New Year’s Day part 2, drawing us into deeper consideration of our lives, our actions, and our futures. (This is one reason that I love that I’m a June baby! Halfway through each year, I can have an intentional reevaluation of how I’m spending my days.) Milestone birthdays are already a thing, so why should 33, unorthodox as it may be, be any different? So that leads me to the next question: how might I live into a God-centered Jesus year?
We’ve already established that there’s no true life without death, so in honor of my new age of double 3s, I’ve considered 3 things that need to die (or be put to death once more–and sorry for saying die/death so often on my BIRTHday), and 3 things that I hope and pray will flourish with new life and energy.
so long, goodbye, farewell, and good riddance to:
- over-absorbtion with self, or put another way, navel-gazing. – This will be a lifelong endeavor, I’m sure, but being overly consumed with all the details about my own life often contributes to increased anxiety, fear, and a lack of awareness of the needs of those around me. Letting things build up inside to the point the point of bursting and having truly regrettable vulnerability hangovers is so age 32 and under. Enough of that! I need more healthy processing patterns in my life that allow me to be more outwardly focused and not unhealthily introspective. Getting out of my own head (and keeping my head more frequently in the Word) is bound to help with this. (to that end, I should probably stop canceling therapy appointments, huh…)
- fear of man. – again, we’re talking about a goal I’ll likely be working toward til I make it to heaven, but year by year I hope and pray that this so called “imposter syndrome” is medicated with a sense of belonging to God that’s so potent that seeking the approval of strangers and peers loses the placebo effect that its had on my life thus far.
- (insert artsy and poetic way of saying a complete lack of self-discipline). – Okay, maybe not a complete lack, but enough that I’m kept from pursuing personal goals, ideas, and dreams; enough that I’m kept in a perpetual loop of rushing rushing rushing to get essential things done; enough that I feel too mentally frazzled to have a fighting chance in the battle against self-absorption and fear of man. IT’S ALL CONNECTED! (cue meme of the frenzied-looking dude who is pointing at a board covered with papers connected by yarn and thumbtacks) I hear Hebrews 10 echoing in my mind as I write: you have need of endurance. I pray for more endurance like Jesus this Jesus year, being evidenced by, in Paul’s words, disciplining my body and bringing it under strict control, so that after preaching to others, I myself will not be disqualified.
hello, welcome back, and stay a while to:
- freedom. I’ve never fit cleanly into any category. I inevitably burst through the boxes I try to cram myself into, and the song of my life has been a genre all its own. This past year or so I’ve begun to experience I freedom I didn’t know I was available to me. It’s been like deep breaths to my soul to discover and rediscover aspects of myself that I’ve squelched and silenced for so long. While it’s yet another ongoing pursuit that won’t be unique to my “Jesus year,” I hope to find freedom, joy, and contentment in being my best and most authentic Christ-like self. On the flip side of this freedom coin, I’ve been in an ongoing battle to unbind myself from deeply ingrained negative ways of thinking of myself physically. From the bone disorder that affects my facial features, to my perpetually postpartum body further changed in the pandemic, I have plenty of opportunities to retrain my mind to embrace the simple, glorious, inherent freedom to exist in this temporary, flawed frame, and to stop being surprised or ashamed that I won’t have a glorified body here on earth. (I look forward to having it in eternity though!) In the meantime, this Jesus year and every year ahead, I want to both mentally and physically regard myself as a free woman, bound only by Christ, who fully and wholly accepts me, and loves me enough to help me change.
- solitude. – I went from a house of multiple siblings, to having roommates in college, to being married, so I haven’t truly experienced what it is like to live alone. I’m not looking part ways with people though (take a deep breath, J; I’m sticking around!). What I need and desire is contentment doing and experiencing things on my own. By myself. Just me and God. I am so used to living life with others, out of both desire and necessity, that I realized I was actually uncomfortable being present with just…me. At the risk of sounding incredibly selfish, I want to better learn how to enjoy moments of solitude without rushing to be in the presence of others, even people I dearly love. Before you raise an eyebrow at me, I’m taking this Jesus year desire straight from the Good Book itself. How many times in the gospels do we read about how Jesus went away to pray alone and spend time with the Father? If Jesus the God-man needed solitude, how much more so finite, easily exhausted, needy lil me? I often resist and avoid intentional time alone, rarely getting over the hump of restlessness to the stillness of being present with the Father. That’s been changing, and Lord willing will continue. So hello, Sabbath, and welcome, Solitude! We’re not well-acquainted, but I hope that with time we will get to know one another well.
- community. – I know, I know. I just word dumped about needing to learn solitude; now I’m saying that I hope community stays awhile. The two aren’t mutually exclusive. I need both to thrive, both to walk in the freedom of a fully-engaged life (again, see Jesus example above). I spent a season of feeling fairly isolated and spiritually dry, but by God’s grace in recent days I’ve been experiencing the joy of building new relationships, digging deeper into old ones, and relearning what it means to be a healthy and integrated member of the local church. I want to be more intentional in becoming a better friend, a better listener, a better giver, and a better receiver. I want to live transparently, allowing myself to be fully seen and known by others, as I actually am (read: sans fear of man & walking in freedom!). I don’t seek community for approval or acceptance. Jesus in me is what I want to be seen by the community I welcome in.
Each element of these lists is both unique and intertwined with the others. Every hello needs a goodbye, and some goodbyes won’t leave unless I kick its unwelcome friend out along with it (see self-discipline point). The good thing is that my growth is not dependent on orderly and linear success. (not possible anyway!) I’ve technically already been pursuing these goals, and this is just the continuation of work put in, but doing so with fresh energy and effort.
So hurray! I’m 33! Happy Jesus year to me. But since Jesus is alive, Jesus year is every year that I make it around the sun in this life.
And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. –2 Corinthians 9:8