A Year of Faith that was Hard to Believe

When the year began, I had a feeling it would be a good one.

It was a feeling based on absolutely nothing– the change of some numbers and an eagerness to move on from the previous year. That was a year where I felt strangely isolated. Many people in my life I had been close to had drifted away, and there wasn’t much going on in my life anymore. Sometimes, lives become miserable because of the presence of pain. Other times, it’s because of the absence of anything at all.

Towards the end of the year, that feeling of emptiness began to give way to a feeling of hope- a inarticulable but rooted belief that things could change. I had a sense of what I needed more of- people, adventures, things worth pursuing. That hope turned into a willingness to try new things, and to take on life as a participant. That willingness turned into a most incredible year, one with an abundance of meaningful relationships and lived adventures.

It was a year of marveling at a Sufjan Stevens concert, of riding the roller coaster of a too-movie-like-to-be-true summer fling, of walking the cobblestone streets of ancient Italy while acquiring a taste for modern Italian pop. That was the same year where I decided to forgo secure housing for the sake of connecting with friends, the year where I caught myself hitchhiking in Turkey, and the year where I listened to a sermon and jumped out of an airplane.

All of those adventures on their own would have accounted for a really good year. Traveling, making new friendships, trying new things. But when you look at this year as a more complete big picture, the most memorable impression that it leaves on me is the knowledge that a beautiful life is not so impossible.

The seeds for that life were planted in a dry season, during that moment of absence. One of the biggest discoveries that I made at that time was a deep realization that living the life I wanted wasn’t something I could do alone.

I needed stronger relationships, starting with my relationship with God. While I’d always identified myself as Christian, I finally felt the urgency to fully plunge into what that meant by asking difficult questions and figuring out how to incorporate the discoveries I made into the life that I was living every day.

I started befriending people who I saw as guides along the way. I participated in a variety of communities, from a college Christian group, to a simple but warm and friendly community church that seemed to always deliver the message I most needed to hear at just the right time, to an unlikely backyard gathering of people from all walks of life sitting on kegs and talking about God that my friend called, Kickback Church.

The challenge I began to receive was one to embrace life as an incredible gift and to see it’s giver reflected in everything I did. At a new year’s party at the beginning of the year, where I hardly knew anybody, I decided to take that approach to heart.

It was very much like jumping out of an airplane, which was something I found myself doing a couple months later with my pastor and friends from the church I started going to. In the bigger picture of things, I started to see that faith was all about taking action on hope. If I believed God was actively writing the pages of my life into a meaningful and marvelous story, then I should probably start acting like it.

I decided to participate more in things that would bring life to that story, which is how I found myself in Turkey in March with some friends. Saying yes to life also meant saying yes to adventures, even when they took you far places. It was only a week, but every day paid dividends in the form of stories I would wind up telling over and over again.

Participating also leads to adventures, and over the summer I found myself experiencing some of the most unforgettable moments in the middle of Italy.

I signed up to study abroad, and while that interest was in place long before I started my quest of faith, my spiritual development was also linked with the appreciation for life that was at the heart of those months.

It was at this midpoint where I found myself, on a side trip to France, sitting in Place La Victoire staring upwards at the leaves in the late summer. It was everything I needed to realize that life really was a gift and at that moment I recognized joy staring right at me.

My summer in Europe wasn’t totally void of bad days, however. Without any intention, I found myself in the most stereotypical summer fling imaginable. Pretty much Grease-status. It fell apart as easily as it came together, which is to say, without much thought at all.

In the wake of that unexpected disappointment, I realized the many ways in which that relationship wasn’t built for anything long term. It did, however, wet my appetite for experiencing a deeper connection to people… not only in the form of romance, but also in the form of a thriving community.

I returned to the U.S. determined to go back abroad soon. I signed up to study in Argentina the following semester, and with only one term in the U.S. until then, I decided not to find a place to live, but instead to couch surf my way around.

It was a decision that paid off. At some of the houses I stayed in, late night conversations turned into deep friendships. Taking chances on different, if unconventional experiences was paying off in the most rewarding ways.

At the start of December, I found myself at the bluffs of Isla Vista, staring down the most amazing sunset I had ever seen. Right there, I realized that it had happened. I was wrapping up the most incredible year that I had ever lived. It was full of moments of amazement and wonder and odd experiences that made for good stories, but beyond that, it was a moment where I was truly loving and truly grateful for the life I was given to live.

Much like jumping out of an airplane, this year was all about trusting God to write the story of my life, walking through the doors he had opened for me, and being constantly amazed at what happened next. It was a freefall that brought me through Rome in the summer, Santa Barbara at night, and a sky that looked lit on fire.

My mind rushed back to a moment of wonder mid-October. It was at the Sufjan Stevens concert that I got to attend with my friends Meaghan and Daniel- two faces I met that year who would probably end up lifelong friends.

I messed up our ticket purchase, thus we ended up scattered in different seats throughout the Wiltern Theatre.

Sufjan launched into the song Impossible Soul, a twenty minute spectacular that started with a simple melody and ended with electronic beats, neon hula hoopers, and a fast-paced, high energy spectacle. A few words stood out to me. In the wrong life, everything is chance. In the right life, there are miracles. Possibilities.

Faith is something like that. Embracing life, not as a passive recipient of a series of chances, but as an active participant in a world of miracles. Possibilities.

Today I find myself hardly able to believe all of the incredible places where life took me over the past year, and I feel more enthusastic about the year ahead. It might be even better, although it’s hard to imagine a year that supercedes this one. But it’s not so impossible.

Philippe Lazaro2010