Have you ever heard of a phoenix?
No, not the place, but the mythical bird said to burst into flames upon its death.
If the story stopped there, it seems gruesome and nothing more. But if you know the tales about phoenixes, you know that their lives don’t end with the ashes. According to legend, a phoenix is able to rise, with new life, from those ashes. They can do this over and over again, rendering them immortal.
The flames are only temporary, and when they rise again, it’s with new strength and beauty.
I’ve always loved reading about phoenixes. To me, their symbolism is an inspiring reminder that a difficult situation, painful event, or uncomfortable transition will only last a short time. And ultimately, we can rise from those circumstances with new knowledge, mindsets, and strength.
A phoenix has also been said to represent Jesus Christ; resurrecting itself just as Jesus did. With His power, can’t we also come back from our dark situations, into the light again?
I think you’ll agree with me when I say that 2020 felt a lot like an ‘ash’ year. So many things we were used to burnt up in the flames of change. People have changed, places have changed, beliefs have changed… Expectations were thrown aside, and instead, the year consisted of one unexpected event after another.
Though some people may be tempted to say 2020 was all bad, I don’t agree. Yes, there were unbelievable hardships, loss, and grief. I’m not going to try to downplay those things because they’re very real. I lost people, opportunities, and hopes, too, and I feel that pain intensely. I’m sure you do too.
But 2020 wasn’t all bad. Through everything that happened, we learned. We learned how to live with the changes, and even thrive in the midst of the hardships. We adapted, thought up creative solutions, and stretched ourselves to reach out to others.
New skills were learned, new people were met, new organizations and groups were created… I watched and still watch with awe as people around the world are working together to inspire, encourage, and teach one another, despite being apart. In addition, families that have been forced to see each other much more than normal have strengthened their relationships.
Seeing all of these things gives me hope. They remind me of little tendrils of life pushing their way through the ashes of everything that changed and/or burned up in 2020. Despite the weight of the hardships. Despite how crushing they may feel at times.
People around the world are acting as phoenixes, rising again with new life and new strength.
I have the privilege of leading a writing group this year. Together, we’ve set wordcount goals for 2021, and will help encourage and push one another to improve and be productive. When it came time for me to name our group, it seemed obvious.
Even in something as small as writing, I believe 2021 can be a year of new life and new growth. I hope that we’re able to stretch ourselves, to push ourselves, and to grow our skills. I pray we’re able to encourage one another like never before and tell stories that inspire all who hear them. I want this year to be one where we can set aside insecurities, bad habits, and fears, and do the best we possibly can.
And all of that carries over into the rest of my prayers for 2021.
With every new year that dawns, countless opportunities for growth arise. And after a year like 2020, I feel like this one can be especially fruitful. I hope and pray that we’re each able to take the things we’ve learned from 2020 and apply them in our everyday lives.
To reach out to others. To not take anything for granted. To appreciate every blessing around us, no matter the size.
To believe that even though it feels like the world is falling apart around us, there is Someone in control that has a good plan for each and every occurrence.
I’ve learned so much this year, about countless things. About trust 1, about the importance of reaching out to others, and about family. About knowing when to fight for something, and knowing when to let it go for the sake of peace. About overcoming my fears and about stretching myself in areas I never thought I could go.
But I know I still have a long ways to go.
This year, I’m praying for growth for myself in many areas. I want to learn to love others better, without thinking of myself so much – or at all. I want to grow to be more generous, and take to heart the fact that material possessions aren’t all there is to life. I want to learn to use my time wisely, for purposes that will glorify God and lead others to Him.
What do you want to learn this year? What do you want to do? Who do you want to grow closer to?
I know it feels kind of like searching for the horizon during a storm, but good things are ahead in 2021. Blessings are in store for us, just as they were steadily provided in 2020. Yes, there will be hardships. I don’t know what, when, or how intense, but they’ll be there. You may be experiencing some right now.
But have you ever noticed that the shoots that rise through burnt ground are the greenest?
I know that, just like we did in 2020, we can continue to rise through any ashy difficulties of this year. We can, and I pray we will, grow stronger – and not just physically. Stronger in love. Stronger in compassion. Stronger in generosity, and hope, and faith.
Those are the things that will carry us. Those are the things we should pursue with all our hearts.
It’s promised that if we seek the Lord, those are the things He’ll grant us, so that we can persevere through any challenges.
I have a feeling that, like me, you long for those things deeply. And that’s a wonderful thing. I pray that longing drives you to pursue them this year, just as I’m praying I’ll develop them more and more each day.
Their beauty truly does surpass all else.
Even mythical birds.
Do you not know? Have you not heard?
The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.
He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.
(Isaiah 40: 28-31 NIV)
1. My post on what I’m learning about trust can be found here.