There’s been so much to happen across this year…. but I’m just a man. Here’s a very open look at my 2016.

Walking the Tweed river/ocean shoreline
Walking the Tweed river/ocean shoreline

December. It’s here in force. That means Christmas approaches, which also means 2017. I was at my work Christmas party last week and was blown away by the fact that once again, the year is coming to a close. So many people I know have said that this year has gone by so quick, but for me, it definitely feels like a year has happened. There’s been a lot of good and bad, like your year, and as always I like to take some time to reflect on the year. I’m actually writing this one from Tweed Heads in New South Wales during a night away (where the photo above is from), so it’s super reflective. So how was my year? Let’s have an honest look.

One thing I’m happy to say is this has been a year where I have seen myself successful across my Big 4. What are my Big 4? Well, if you’ve been following for a while or know me in person, you might know that there are four big areas I feel drawn to with regards to the purpose of my life – relationships, leadership, alleviating Western poverty, and helping people find their own purpose. If I look across this year, I can happily say that every day to at least every few days, well yes, I did succeed in influencing others for good in one of those four areas in one way or another. I feel like I’m really starting to get into my prime so to speak with those areas with others, so that’s one thing I’m fairly happy about. Especially all the weddings. Love weddings. Not much else to say on that, probably because there’s far too much to say on that.

But I’m just a man.

There’s also been a whole bunch of new things. I made some small modifications and tweaks to the house I bought last year,  making it already feel a bit different and a bit more “mine” to how it was. I replaced my old Camry (Vienta to be precise) for a newer car that people definitely don’t pick as the car I would be driving. It was actually a pretty crazy story how that car happened, with discovery of that car to its eventual purchase happening completely over the Easter weekend. I even got a new job, not that there was anything wrong with my old one necessarily, just a new opportunity that presented itself and one I’ve been enjoying quite a bit. I also moved on from a ministry I had been a significant part of for the last 7 years as my role was no longer necessary (that’s a good thing), and I stepped up into helping out with the next age bracket of people. That has been truly rewarding and I think it’s safe to say I have some great people around me there. Even have one of my bedrooms as a bit of a kids room for when everyone’s kids come over now.

But I’m just a man.

If I were to look at the harsher aspects of the year, I see several times where people have made assumptions about me. And not good ones. I look back on several key instances, even as recent as last week, where people have assumed I’ve had an easy run in life. I don’t think anyone ever really does, but isn’t it interesting how quickly we can look at a person we haven’t taken the time to know and make surface observations without any truth behind them? Another assumption that has been made has been about my expectations of others. I remember earlier in the year someone said to me, and had communicated to a few other people, “Matt, well obviously whoever you marry is going to have to be perfect”. I asked them why they thought that. That’s never been something I’ve ever said to anyone, nor is it accurate of my expectations of people in any relationship. I always communicate and believe within myself that I just want people to be themselves. They were taken back by my response and said “well true, you’ve never really lived like you were expecting perfection, it’s just something I figured”. But isn’t it funny the assumptions we make about people without even asking them.

But I’m just a man.

On the topic of assumptions, one rather difficult assumption, or rather presumption, about me has been on my kindness. I think given how much grace I usually try to give people, I can think of quite a few instances where people have just presumed on my kindness and done things which were either negligent of me as a person, or even disrespectful or cruel. I think some of this I can understand, as some people who witnessed some of these situations first hand with me have commented. People often come to me for advice on things, and based on feedback, see me as someone worth consulting on things, as someone who’s strong and who can just handle whatever happens. I’m glad that’s the case. However, it has been difficult when people have just seen me as some sort of wisdom giving or understanding superhuman, whereby you can just take what you need, say what you want, treat me however and walk away. “Oh, it’s just Matt Clark”, a few people have even said after doing or saying something harsh – sometimes friends, sometimes even people I consider my leaders. Some even to my face. “He’ll get over it”. I even wrote more about this in my post earlier this year, I Can’t Compete With Myself.

…. Because I’m just a man.

I can think of some instances of this where I really saw my tolerance for people’s behaviour break. I can remember one or two friends… in truth I had a few longer term friendships where this happened this year, where the people involved did just that – treated me with disrespect or did something harsh, and then either just assumed I’d deal with what they did or said (cause “It’s just Matt”), or accept an insincere apology. I had already been very forgiving and given these people quite a bit of room, including room to see if they would set things right of their own accord. Unfortunately, I either had to be the one to bring it up again, or put an end to the relationship as it stood. Forgiveness still given on my side, but forgiveness and trust are not the same things. And if people are willing to be harsh and destructive, they can’t continue to have the same access they once did until they demonstrate change. You can’t be entrusted with more talents because I’ve seen the way you act when given only one.

Because I’m just a man.

So, why am I being so open about all this? If you’ve read any of my writing you’ll know I don’t believe in hiding things. I’ve seen enough of the devastation bred by ignoring things or refusing to talk about what’s real. And I was thinking on the drive down the coast today how worthwhile this stuff would be sharing because you’re just a man too. Or a woman. A person. We’re all the same. We really are. We have all the same needs as each other. We struggle with almost all the same things at the core of who we are – finding our purpose, being valued, finding the place where we belong, what to do with people who become difficult or cruel. And I figure and actually know for a fact that so many others look back on their year this year with similar amounts of things worth celebrating, and also things that they mourn and find difficult.

Because, like you, I’m just a man. A person. You know what I mean. I mean to say we really are all the same. And we all have limits. And that’s okay.

So,  how is this year ending? If you’re a regular subscriber you may have noticed I haven’t written a post in about a month, so I want to apologise for not being as regular with content as you’ve come to expect and enjoy. 250000 visitors, grateful for every one of you, from whatever country and background you came from. Love hearing from you all over the world and how my little reflections help you with your own. To be honest there’s still a lot of really great things happening. But I caught up with a very good friend of mine, probably one of the most consistent and faithful friends and men I know, a few weeks ago and said it’s kind of like CS Lewis’ allegory of Narnia at the moment, where it feels like it’s always winter, but it’s never Christmas. The season says the fullness of the celebration will come, but it seems like time has slown dramatically. And I’m just waiting for Aslan to come and end the winter, and bring Christmas again.

Because I trust the Lion.

And so the year still has a few weeks left, so who knows what the year could end with? And I wonder how you look back on your year? If you can relate to my year in any way, or if something you’ve read has reminded you of something in your own life? I would encourage you as we all should to take stock and address anything that needs to be addressed, and to rightly celebrate anything that needs to be celebrated.

Praying you end the year with strength and boldness, and with hope for a bold new year ahead.


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