I like looking back at the past, but I am more strongly drawn to thinking about the future. At this time of year, there are a plethora of posts on news websites rounding up what’s been going on during the last twelve months. 2012 has been a mixed bag for me. Like everyone, mine’s had some good bits, some horrible bits and a great deal of ‘blah’ in between, where the days all merged into one.
But I do love New Year, I love the potential of it. It’s like standing on the threshold of your house and looking out at a vast expanse of virgin snow. At this point your head is thinking “oh how beautiful the world looks,” not dwelling on how much you’re going to have to shovel to get your car out. It’s also the wonderfulness of a new exercise book in school; where there are no mistakes, no crossings out and you are determined that everything will be your very best work in your neatest handwriting. That usually last until about page 5, by which time your book is entirely covered in Tipp-Ex and you can’t sustain the neat handwriting any longer.
It’s inevitable that at some point, next year is going to end up looking (and feeling) like four day old grey, slushy snow with suspicious yellow bits in it. It’s inevitable, because we know that life isn’t going to be daisy-strewn perfection. It’s not a case of there may be trouble ahead, there absolutely will be and some of it’s going to be downright painful. But for this one moment at the start of the year there is none of that. It’s 365 or 366 days of utter, unmitigated potential and I get excited about that! It’s the beauty of the year before the dog’s got out and widdled on it. There will be bad times, sure; but there are also going to be good times and times where you just boggle and go “what the…?” In many cases we can’t choose what’s going to happen to us, but we can all choose how we react to it. This does not mean laughing in the face of pain, far from it -the letting out of grief is necessary to start the healing process -but at some point, Monday morning is going to turn into Friday afternoon and it can’t be Monday morning forever. If it is, somebody’s going to have to get some WD-40 on the universe, pronto!
I don’t know what’s ahead but one thing I have found is that having a faith is helping me through whatever happens. My head is full of all sorts of things and a large proportion of it is Fleetwood Mac lyrics. Sometimes I do wonder if it’s God or Stevie Nicks, but that’s a discussion for another day. One of the lines from their 1990 album Behind the Mask is this: “…when it all comes down, stand on the rock.” Now this is nothing to do with faith, it’s Fleetwood Mac, but it’s indicative of the way my mind works, that it reminds me that when that happens to me, when it all comes down, that I do have that rock, of faith in Jesus Christ to stand on. Similar sentiments that Rick Vito wrote about in Stand on the Rock are expressed in countless Christian hymns and songs; notably for me the 1991 song by Dennis Jernigan: “You are my strength when I am weak, you are the treasure that I seek.” And in verse two “When I fall down you pick me up, when I am dry you fill my cup, you are my all in all.” When it all falls apart, comes down, or hits the fan, I know I can stand on the rock of Jesus and he will carry me through. Not in some supernatural, woo woo way; but reminding me of basic truths, which give me the ability to put one foot in front of the other and keep going.
How? You might ask. How does Jesus help you through? Sadly, I can’t give you a concrete answer to that, because for each Christian the support manifests itself in different ways. For me it’s through the Bible. Reading the words in that book give me enormous strength and help me to look beyond the pain and be more objective. I’m sure anyone would admit that getting your head out of your own backside is an enormously helpful first step in any situation.
Sometimes a particular passage resonates, such as the one on the header of this blog. I take those passages to heart as much as I can and almost ‘feed’ off them. Does that make sense? Having a repository of scripture to draw on in difficult times is something I am appreciating more and more as I get older. That verse at the top is part of an entire chapter that is appearing to ‘resonate’ with me (be particularly poignant), so I’m claiming the whole chapter as my text for the year. It’s something I’m aiming to take deeply to heart during 2013, and, more importantly, put into practice. So here it is, from the New Living Translation.
“And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don’t copy the behaviour and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.
Because of the privilege and authority God has given me, I give each of you this warning: Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us. Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other.
In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you. If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly.
Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically. Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying. When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality.
Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them. Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all! Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.
Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say,
“I will take revenge;
I will pay them back,”
says the Lord. (Deut 32:35)
Instead,“If your enemies are hungry, feed them.
If they are thirsty, give them something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap
burning coals of shame on their heads.” (Prov 25:21-22)
Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.
Whatever you do in 2013, may it always be your best work in your neatest handwriting.
Happy New Year!