Can you feel it? How tired the world is?
How much every one of us just wants this year to be over?
Here in Queensland, this time of year people literally bounce around. It's Christmas! It's school holidays! It's the season of parties and beaches and running through sprinklers and giving presents!
But you can see the tiredness in the depths of people's eyes. That somehow 2016 has made everything...grey.
We've lost great people who gave their talents to this world. We've seen shocking decisions in politics. We've been hit with awful tragedies. On a personal level, it seems as though everyone I know has had the sort of challenges where you feel you are running through thick sludge, never to get anywhere useful.
Am I alone in feeling as though I've forgotten what God's love feels like? Of what it looks like to see His blessings?
The grieving period
I came to Christianity later in my teenage years. It was a struggle sometimes, trying to understand what everything should feel like. Should I feel different in worship? Should I feel different when I pray? What does it feel like when God answers you?
It took me years and wading through a great deal of mis-teaching and mis-information to realise God speaks and interacts with everyone differently. That the people telling me I wasn't a real Christian because I wasn't hearing God the way they do, were wrong.
This year, God has been teaching me about the grieving period. That what science has explained can be broadened to almost everything in our lives. Death is not the only reason people grieve. And as a bonafide political nerd, BREXIT and the election of Donald Trump to the most powerful office in the world, had me reeling in such a way.
To me however, it sounded shallow that God suggested I grieve such things. After all, isn't grief reserved for those who have deeply and utterly lost someone? For those who have had a piece of their hearts ripped from them?
What I came to understand is too often we put standards on emotions. We place limits on when people should feel things, when they shouldn't and in what quantities and especially when they should be over it. We define how God should feel to all of us and at all times.
We need time, in all the different stages of our lives. Time to process the shock and denial. Time to experience the hurt and the guilt. Time to know the anger, the reflection, the loneliness. And finally, to feel the rise in spirits, the reconstruction of what you've lost, and the beautiful hope.
And of course, time to know God in all of these.
A couple of weeks ago, I was standing in the middle of my workplace. It's a beautiful campus full of greenery and shade and it shines when the sun is out (which of course in Queensland is often.)
But I was running hurriedly through it, determined to cross the next thing off my list. Frantically busy, is sometimes the lowest level at which I function.
But that day, God decided that I needed a moment. And He stopped me in my tracks.
It was around that time when a deluge of butterflies had descended on Brisbane. And I suddenly found myself in amongst what seemed to be their favourite place. I was surrounded by little yellow butterflies, flitting from one bush to another and back again.
I'd been rushing so much, head down, thumbs on the phone, that I hadn't even noticed one of them. I hadn't noticed the sheer, simple beauty of the gift God was trying to give me in that moment.
I probably looked like a complete idiot just standing there in the middle of a courtyard, mouth agape. But I didn't care. Because I had been in the crux of overwhelming work, on the brink of tears because I didn't have enough hours in the day to get everything I needed to, done. It was a season of the pressure of extreme expectations, of the stifling fear of failure and I had experienced the shock, the denial, the anger, the loneliness—all of it.
In that moment, God handed me hope. And I remembered, that there is no 'what God feels like'.
He is there for every moment.
Talisa Pariss is the co-ordinator of the school-based Louder Theatre Company, teaching drama, communication skills and confidence to kids. When she's not pretending for a living, she can be found indulging in any kind of creativity she can get her hands on.
Talisa Pariss's previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/talisa-pariss.html