New Year Ponderings

It’s a New Year.  The calendar has turned.  If you’re on social media, likely much of your Facebook or Twitter feed has been devoted in recent weeks to the occasion, with year-end remembrances and best-of the year posts, as well as New Year Resolutions declared (and perhaps already confessed to being broken), and hopes for this year articulated.  There are not many times that our culture recognizes the value of taking time to pause and reflect on one’s state of life, but the turning of the calendar is one of them, as we all say goodbye to the good and the bad we experienced in 2015 and welcome whatever 2016 will bring.

In a way, it’s rather arbitrary.  It’s really just one more change of a day to another, right?  Why does the globe choose this particular occasion, roughly a week or so after the winter solstice, to stop and take stock?  Why not choose a prettier season with nicer weather, say some time in the spring or summer, to ponder?  Clearly the near-universality of our current calendar system is the cause, as all of us, from Beijing to Beirut to Berkeley, collectively experience a change of date that we don’t experience that often. And though the number change might be mundane, it reminds us that change has indeed taken place, inviting us to reflect on and discern what, perhaps beyond the mundane, has changed this year, and in what ways do we still hope for change.

The calendar is also a reminder that our life is lived not as a series of random, disconnected moments, but as a longer story that is told in real time.  That attachment to time means that our life on earth is finite; that there are only so many days in which our live’s story will be written.  The psalmist behind Psalm 39, possibly David, recognized this sobering and centering reality when he prayed these words:

4 “Show me, Lord, my life’s end and the number of my days;    
let me know how fleeting my life is.
5 You have made my days a mere handbreadth; the span of my years is as nothing before you.
Everyone is but a breath, even those who seem secure.
6 Surely everyone goes around like a mere phantom;    
in vain they rush about, heaping up wealth without knowing whose it will finally be.
7 But now, Lord, what do I look for? My hope is in you.
8  Save me from all my transgressions; do not make me the scorn of fools.”

Perhaps this is some of why we feel pulled to ponder our state of affairs.  Like the psalmist, we want to live each day in the reality that our life is but “a breath” before God. Yet we also long for it to be a breath which will have meaning and depth and joy, as well as root us into something eternal; something beyond this span of years that is “as nothing” before Universal Transcendent Life.  

So in the spirit of the psalmist and the spirit of the season, and with the acknowledgement that our life is well served by incorporating rhythms of rest, remembrance, and reflection, whatever the cause, I invite you this week to consider the following questions.  Some of them are for pondering the year that has just passed and the lessons learned therein.  Others are for considering the year that has just begun, and what we hope we will see in these next three hundred and fifty some days. My hope is you can find a moment to put your feet up and grab a cup of coffee or a glass of wine.  Read them.  Sit with them.  Take them in. See which ones stir you.  Ask them before Jesus and listen to the voice in your spirit to see if Jesus might speak through it. Discuss your thoughts on them with a friend or partner. Write down the answers that come to mind.  And bring those answers and hopes to Jesus as you join me in praying for the year we have begun.

As you consider 2015:

  • What went well in the last year?  
  • What were your highlights?  
  • What were your challenges? 
  • What new thing(s) did you learn about Jesus?  
  • What did you learn about yourself?

And as you consider 2016:

  • What do you hope for in the next year?  
  • What new goals do you have? How do you hope your previous goals will be advanced?  
  • Who do you want to connect with more in the year to come? 
  • In what ways do you hope to grow this year?  What are you willing to change to enable growth?
  • What kind of leader, peer, friend, partner, parent (and other roles) do you want to be?  
  • What is Jesus inviting you to press into this year?

In the next week, I'll be posting about some of my answers to those questions, both personally, as well as for Haven.  And I look forward to seeing how our stories will continue to be woven together into something bigger than any of us in the year to come.