As a kid, I remember waking up on January 1st. Still filled with the joy of Christmas break and not having to go to school, I’d go downstairs and turn on the TV. Barely yet aware of the existence of college football, I knew that on January 1 I could count on one thing: floats. The marching bands and the giant balloons shaped like Curious George were side shows. I watched for the floats. The TV anchors would tell me just how many varieties of flower were on each float, sometimes as many as 500.

The Rose Bowl Parade held in Pasadena, California is a staple of New Years Day. It was started in the late 1800s by new residents who wished to showcase their new found mild Californian winter weather. Probably to rub it into their relatives who still living in Iowa. At a club meeting, one of the founders made the comment, “In New York, people are buried in the snow. Here our flowers are blooming and our oranges are about to bear. Let’s hold a festival to tell the world about our paradise.”

Quite a paradise. Every year, nearly 1 million people lined the streets of Pasadena. Millions more watched on TV in 217 countries  in over 20 languages. Over 80,000 hours of combined manpower are needed each year to organize the parade and make the floats. The parade route is over 5 miles long and takes 2.5 hours to pass. The cost of the parade is not information available to the public, and the number of roses can only be speculated: both are in the millions.

72 hours before parade time, Pasadena starts buzzing with activity. Truckloads of flowers are brought into the city. The streets are full of volunteers. Roses are everywhere. As the New Year approaches, the whole city is full of anticipation and excitement to usher in the new year.

But parades are not the only reason people line the streets. Anticipation and excitement are not the only emotions felt as one year passes and another begins. New Year’s Day is a time when we look forward to a new year, but also look back on a previous one. And sometimes we must look back on a year that has been filled with pain, confusion, or death. Sometimes we line the streets not for a celebratory parade, but for a funeral march.

Paul has both kinds of parades when he says in 1 Thessalonians 4 “Do not grieve like the rest who have no hope.” Paul does not stop at “do not grieve.” He says “do not grieve like the rest.” In other words, grieving is normal and healthy. To acknowledge pain and hardship is not a sign of weakness or lack of faith. Rather, the acknowledgment of harsh realities is the only road to wholeness and healing.

This January, Heartland Vineyard Church will be teaching through a series called Daring Greatly: The Journey of Wholehearted Living. You’ll hear the pastors talk a lot about vulnerability…and model it. We’ll discover that vulnerability is not only a path of healing, but also a way to connect deeper with each other through transformative relationships.

In her book, Daring Greatly, Brene Brown says “If we’re going to find our way out of shame and back to each other, vulnerability is the path and courage is the light. To set down those lists [telling us] what we’re supposed to be is brave. To love ourselves and support each other in the process of becoming real is perhaps the greatest single act of daring greatly.”

Brown does not give us the whole picture, however. Vulnerability may be the path and courage may be the light, but Jesus is our rock! If our identity is not rooted in him, we will not have the strength to stand. If we depend on our own confidence or courage, we will flee. If we journey without him, we will lose our way. Without him, we will base our self worth on our achievement or on others perceptions. Standing on Jesus as our identity is the only way to “dare greatly” or to live a wholehearted life. Imagine living a life without shame. You wouldn’t need to pretend to be someone you’re not or compare yourself to those around you. Imagine having relationships where you can know someone fully and be fully known. Imagine not having to live in fear, shame, or guilt. Jesus does not offer us a life of riches, fame or popularity. Instead, Jesus offers us an abundant life that can be perfectly whole if we follow him with unguarded hearts.