I write this as the old year winds down. Remember 2016? I want to be positive. I know there is much to be grateful for. And I give thanks. There were many terrific moments, but we also had some terrifying ones.
It saddens me to look back on recent events and see so much anger, pain and desperation.
It’s not the best way to start the New Year. We must look forward. But how do we escape the darkness? Where do we run for hope?
My first granddaughter posted her family’s Christmas message on Facebook and I will steal from it. She quotes theologian J. I. Packer.
“The Christmas message is that there is hope for a ruined humanity—hope of pardon, hope of peace with God, hope of glory—because at the Father’s will Jesus became poor, and was born in a stable so that 30 years later he might hang on a cross.
“The same God who made the world broke into our world—into our mess—and actually lived in it. He went through the entire human experience, from the trivial to the dreadful agony of betrayal, rejection, humiliation, death. It’s safe to say, whatever the storm, he’s been there. He gets it. He gets us. The Savior comes to meet us in our darkness. He is Immanuel, GOD WITH US. This is our hope.
“As we look back on the year that was, and look forward to 2017, we are grateful that ‘on those living in the land of deep darkness, a light has dawned.’”
These are beautiful, encouraging words. They restore my peace, fill me with hope and all is well with my soul.
Our natural tendency at this time is to look back and ask, “Where has the time gone? What happened? Why did it go so fast?” And every year, there are no answers. All we know is that time is gone forever and there’s no calling it back.
How successful are you with New Year’s resolutions? On Dec. 31 every year we promise to break bad habits, go on diets, exercise, be kinder, reach out to others. But too often we forget. I remember 32 years ago when I quit smoking. That’s the only one I have kept, ever.
Must we end the year full of regret? I hate the feeling of “sayang.” I bristle when someone says “sana.” To me, these are words that speak of time wasted, of wrong choices, risks not taken, decisions not made.
Today we should ask: In the last 365 days, have I added anything positive to someone else’s life? Have I improved someone’s lot, helped lift a burden, brightened someone’s day, or tried to speak life into a hardened heart? When was the last time I held back an unkind word? What was my last little act of kindness? Was I thoughtful? Caring? Or was it all about me?
We must do better! It’s a brand new year. We have been given another chance to get it right.
As I review the events of my 2016, I find that the early part was more peaceful than the second half. I think many of us came undone because of political strife.
I compared notes with a friend in New York and she confessed her world spun out of control after their elections. I did not comment or ask why, afraid she would go on her usual rant. We finally decided that our issues, although similar, were too complicated for us to figure out. But we agreed to keep the faith.
Shortly before Christmas I came across an online study that asked, “What turns you on?” I could have dismissed it as another marketing gimmick designed to pry into the sensual persuasions of the reader. But I was intrigued.
The questionnaire, it turns out, was an insipid attempt to elicit reactions on food, literature, music, politics and yes, sex.
I guess I was in a combative mood and hoped it would ask what it takes to get me all riled up or just fed up. Maybe it should have asked, “What turns you off?” But it didn’t.
I gave the questions a quick onceover and offered answers about medium rare roasts and Sinatra. Then they asked for my political favorites and about my heroes. And I got lost in my own thoughts about triggers and tipping points, about betrayal and protests and “your back to the wall” kind of moments when you do the unexpected, the unthinkable, even the impossible. End of survey.
It’s the New Year and I have no list of resolutions. Instead, let me borrow the wise words of Mother Teresa of Calcutta.
“People are often unreasonable, illogical and self-centered.
Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives.
Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will find some false friends and some true enemies.
If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you.
Be honest and frank anyway.
What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight.
If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous.
Be happy anyway.
The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow.
Do good anyway.
Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough.
Give the world the best you’ve got anyway.
You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and your God;