The word selah appears dozens of times in the Psalms. For example, Psalm 32:7 (AMP) says:
You are a hiding place for me; You, Lord, preserve me from trouble, You surround me with songs and shouts of deliverance. Selah.
The exact translation of selah is unknown but scholarly guesses have been made as to the meaning of this mysterious word. My favourite guess is, “pause and calmly think about that,” which is how the Amplified Bible expands the word. I like that guess because it reminds me to stop and think about what I’ve just read and what it means before I move on to the next statement. Sometimes when I’m reading my Bible, I forget to do that – to stop and think about what I’m reading instead of just reading it. So selah serves as an effective reminder to give myself a moment to breath and take in all that I’ve just read.
A year has just ended and a new one has begun and I think now is a great time for me to have a selah moment – it’s a great time to pause and calmly think about what has happened over this past year, what it means, how it’s affected me and what it may mean for me going forward.
When 2016 started, I was excited for what I planned to do, which was really only two things – climb Mt. Kilimanjaro in honour of my fortieth birthday and as a representation of my new life of possibilities, and live and work in Indonesia for a year. What I didn’t consider was how those two things would profoundly change who I am. When I left Jamaica in mid-January, God had already started working on me but as nice a person as I thought I was, I was still prideful, judgmental and haughty. God used 2016 to strip most of that away and break me right down to the core, then He started re-building me into who He wants me to be.
For example, like most Jamaicans, I never used to have friends of other nationalities or even of other colours. Now I do, and I finally and truly understand that people really are just people, no matter where they come from or their skin colour. I can now admit to myself that I had an underlying sense of racial inferiority my whole life – I always felt slightly gauche or awkward around people who weren’t black and never actually thought to be friends with them. This year gave me a new Black friend, but I also now have a dear Taiwanese-American friend, as well as friends and acquaintances from Indonesia, America, Poland, China, Malaysia and Uzbekistan, every one of whom I feel equal to. Living with people shows you that they’re just people, the same as me in a lot of ways and different from me in a lot of ways, not because of their nationality or their skin colour but just because they’re people.
And while I was becoming colour blind, even to my own colour, I was also learning to be less concerned with my own life and become more aware and concerned about other people’s lives. I’ve found that a certain type of travel does that. In my previous life, I was so preoccupied with my own concerns, comfort, hopes and dreams that I didn’t make room to be concerned about other people’s lives the way I should have been. I lived in my own shallow world, unaware and uncaring of the much bigger issues unfolding outside of my very limited and anemic box, unaware of the life and vitality and colour and sorrow and pain and joy and wonder that could be mine if only I threw myself into life outside my own narrow existence and deeply invested myself in others.
In a move that seems ironic, given the fact that I have leaped out of my box, I have become more self-aware and contemplative than I’ve ever been in my life. This may seem at odds with living less for myself but I don’t think it’s exactly opposite. Because I passed so much of my life in a haze of going along with the tide, I think it’s important to ensure that I do what I can not to waste anymore time in that way. Self-awareness (not self-absorption) is my main tool to combat that.
Besides all that, this year has firmly planted me in my daily walk with God. As I trudged up Mount Kilimanjaro, struggling to put one foot in front of the other at some times, I learned a true minute-by-minute dependence on God for my life and it was the sweetest feeling I have ever known. That is something I never want to lose, and so I now depend on Him for every decision in my life.
With all of this, I find that even my fashion sense has changed quite a bit. I don’t have much interest in dressing up as much as I used to, nor do I have much interest in shopping or clothes in general. Don’t get me wrong, I still really like clothes and shoes immensely. However, my style has become what I’m going to call ‘sloppy chic’ (A says I could easily be a walking ad for Old Navy) because that’s just who I am now. I want to be comfortable, cozy and relaxed in whatever I’m wearing. I cringe at the thought of putting on business attire and 6-inch heels (cute as they are). Also, my hair pretty much always looks like I stuck my finger in an electrical socket and I’m OK with that for now.
As I pause and calmly think about a very eventful year that is now over, I believe that I exit it a far better person than I entered it. I’m wealthy in experiences that have changed me and I’m well on my way to being who God has always meant me to be.
My prayer is that 2017 pulls me further into the plan that God has for my life, that I can spend a significant part of it doing something to help others and focus less on helping myself. All the ups and downs, all the hurt and joy that will come – I open my arms and welcome it all, knowing that God is with me always and that with every experience, I will continue to become a better person.