I had the privilege of ringing in 2019 with 750+ other young people from across Canada. Together, we sang the praises that God had done for us during the days prior.
Rise Up 2018 was an incredible experience.
It had been two years since I last went to Rise Up in Vancouver. In the two years that followed up until December 28, 2018, I had gone through the natural progression of ebbs and flows of life. 2017 was a good year for me, and 2018 brought with it many blessings but also some suffering.
I knew that I was meant to be at Rise Up to look more deeply at what God had done for me over the past two years, and in particular, how He was transforming me through the suffering that I experienced over the past year.
One thing that remained constant throughout 2018 was imagery of fire.
Whether it was in my prayers, in my dreams, or even my nightmares, I couldn't stop seeing fire. Sometimes it would be in the form of light: a single candle being given to me, or being surrounded by hundreds of them. Sometimes I would be witnessing a disaster: a house was being engulfed by flames, and I watched as the fire consumed this house. Worst still, sometimes I would be in the burning house: the walls would crumble around me, and I would feel the extreme heat against my skin.
Through it all, I was anxious and confused. But through it all, I was untouched by the flames.
This year was a year where I really lost myself.
In adoration, I asked God for clarity. Where had I fallen off the right path? Who am I? Where I am I going?
In His infinite wisdom, I could hear Him sigh around me and gave me the clarity I didn't know I needed. In a clear voice, I heard Him say: "I am enough for you. My intimacy is enough for you. Your family and friends are enough for you."
I struggled with this. Interestingly, I had journalled about this a week earlier. The people in my life who loved me were fixtures in my life who - technically - didn't choose to love me. God, my family, and many of my friends have one thing in common: in theory, they all love me unconditionally.
What I struggled with this entire year was finding someone who would choose to fight for me and love me unconditionally. I longed for a person who would seek to know me intimately the same way I thought I did for others.
I argued with God for a bit, asking Him about all this. And in that moment, He set my entire body on fire. I couldn't move, but I felt extraordinary pain. For the first time, the fire had caught up with me.
But despite some of the pain, I felt a strange sense of peace. It didn't make sense for me to feel calm despite being engulfed in flames. As I waited, I could hear God calling out to me still. "I love you. Seek to know me intimately the way I know you intimately. Into me, see."
The words of Sister Amata Filia, one of the keynotes speakers. Into me, see.
I finally opened up my heart all the way to let Him in. "Into me, see, God. I long to know you intimately."
In an instant, I could feel every fire being put out, from the smallest to the largest bones in my body.
Through a conversation with an old friend, I gained the clarity that I needed.
Coming into Rise Up, I was hoping for clarity on my vocation, my career path, and whether or not I would ~finally~ find someone for myself. But while I had gained some perspective on those things, none of those were the things that God had in store for me.
What I came to understand was that I was actually afraid of intimacy. There were people in my life who I thought I loved when I was in a relationship with them. When things would get serious, I would run away. But when I found myself in clearly unhealthy relationships, I held on to them because deep down inside, I knew there was no possible way for the relationship to happen.
I kept a steady distance from what I knew that I wanted, and pursued all the wrong things in spite of myself.
The fire would burn around me, but it would never touch me.
With 2019 here, I have learned enough from 2018 that my goal is not so much to find someone, but rather to find my place with Christ. He is enough for me.
Every day, He calls us into deeper intimacy with Him - to grow in love and reflect His image with the world. In time to come, God willing, there may be someone who reflects Christ's love back at me - someone who will fight for me and chooses to love me every single day.