Happy New Year Grace Family,
We have flipped the last page on our 2022 calendars, and as we do that some will reflect on the previous 12 months. I know I did. And as Lindi and I open Christmas cards sent by family and friends many of those envelopes contain recap letters of the year that was, proof that I am not alone in my reflecting. We love to hear about the good things, the ‘blessings’, our friends and families experienced during the year and empathize with those whose year included some dark moments. It would be great if all we ever read about were the blessings!
But that, unfortunately is not a realistic expectation for life. For any of us. The trails are a byproduct of a broken world occupied by sinful people. Bad stuff will happen, and we will all face various trials each and every year. As a result we tend to judge, or assess our year as a good year, or a bad year based on the seriousness of the trail or the frequency of the various trials we experienced. The scale of ‘good year’ or ‘bad year’ tip one way or the other for each of us. How would you say the scale tipped in 2022 for you?
I often hear from folks who had a particularly tough year, “I hope this next year is better than last year.” A very natural hope, right? From those whose year was considered ‘good’ the thought is, “I hope this next year is as good as last year!” A very natural desire. Once we get to the end of the year we often assess, take a deep breath and try to put the year behind us and gear up for a new year. A new year can often feel like a fresh start, even some excitement for what life has in store for us over the next 12 months. Unlike reflecting on the previous year, this is something I really do not do anymore.
There are a variety of reasons for this perspective. The main reason is I have learned that I do not have any control over most of the future events in my life, obviously. It probably took me longer to figure this out that it should have. So, there is no point in trying to predict the future. What comes will come for the most part. Worry or anxiety really does not do me any good and keeps me from being present in the moment and it will not change the future.
In years past I did much more compartmentalizing at the end of each year. Once the year was over putting it all in the past and closing the book on the year that was. Then opening up the new book ready to fill the pages with hopes and dreams for the next 12 months. It was, in a way, a coping mechanism to help me deal with life’s challenges and to give me a sense of control, a false sense, but a sense, nonetheless. What I lacked and what led to this dynamic was my faith was not super functional, at least compared to the depth of my faith as it functions now.
I have spoken often of that point in my life when my faith blossomed many years ago at a Cursillo retreat and my relationship with God changed like a light switch being flipped. Life prior to that was mostly filled with negative thoughts and perspectives as I let the trials we all face dictate my attitude and perspective. What I failed to realize was, or understand was I was truly blessed, every day, all the time, because I did not have the kind of relationship with God that I have today. Now, because I have been far more intentional about building that relationship since that fateful retreat I know and believe that God loves me and is always with me in good times and bad times and everything in between. That is the greatest good that exists in this often times, challenging life. The scales did not suddenly tip more in favor of the good things. Metaphorically I placed on the good side of the scale the infinite weight of grace so that nothing that gets placed on the bad side can ever tip the scales over to the bad side.
The hope, peace, joy, and love that coincide with the four weeks of Advent are not just churchy words devoid of purpose. They are promises given by Jesus and the fruit of grace available to all who have faith. I spent many years of my life unaware of the blessing that a life of grace provides. Those years would have probably been judged as not so great by me and I never really expected anything to change just because December came to an end.
When I began embracing and living a life of grace I stopped compartmentalizing my life I stopped putting life in the good or bad box based on circumstances and instead put those good things and the bad things in the blessed box because God is in the center of it all. My hope for 2023 has very little to do with how my life will unfold over the next 12 months. Rather, my hope is for you all, especially those who have a hard time relating to my current perspective, that you do not just know about grace but that you truly live a life of grace.
Yours in Christ,