I delight in not knowing what comes next. I detest not knowing what comes next. This is my conundrum. Dwelling with the questions is fun for a while then I want to go home where I can make a cup of coffee in the middle of the night without turning on the lights. In the hopes of ending my perpetual befuddlement, I offer this long winded reflection on the New Year:
- What will next year bring?
- Who will I meet?
- What mistakes will I make?
- Will I wake up one morning with flat abs?
- Will my nemesis finally be overcome?
- Will I end my love affair with chocolate?
- What new talents will I discover (I found out I’m stellar at Mexican Train without wine)?
- What will we laugh over, cry about, and try to forget (maybe this blog)?
- Is the future before us and are we just venturing backwards?
Like a hard drive I have to shut down my brain once in a while to empty the clutter. So I tried the Eugene H. Peterson thing, and trust me, it’s fabulous. Okay, I admit it might not be for everyone, but you’ll never know if you don’t give it a go, so humor me. You start by googling the Psalms (linked here for your convenience), yes, all one hundred and fifty of them, select a translation that suits you, then choose three (I suggest you use your age, your birth date, and the last two digits of your cell phone, just to get started), read each one slowly, digest in total silence for twenty minutes. The last step is to write down the thoughts that come to you in this vortex of silence. I know, I know, it’s like a radical incarnation, guaranteed to save your sorry ass. You can thank me later.
Christmas is now safely behind us, but I can still hear God scolding me from afar, “There will be hell to pay if I have to come down there again.” So I get quiet, I read, I reflect on the Psalms, and this is what I reaped. “God is collecting my tears in a bottle (56), God asks me to consider the sins lurking in my heart (19), and finally God warns me that my enemies have set a trap for me, it’s wearing me down, they have dug a deep pit in my path, but alas they themselves have fallen into it (57).” Oh my, did 2016 bring a few tears. Tony moved to Australia, my mama got sick, and then my immune system caved to the Shingles. Glad to know God bottled that shit up and put a cork in it. I also identified a few things calcifying my heart like holding grudges, avoiding confrontations, indulging when I should refrain (this includes Gilmore Girls, wine, and solitaire). Can we all agree awareness is the first step? Now, about the trap my enemies have set for me, the one that will result in their demise, this I believe is the true crux, the holy grail, the glass slipper. See, the message is meant for me, I am my own worst enemy, and those calluses come from years of digging my own grave. I think it’s time to retire the shovel, put her in the shed, because my garden is ready to bear fruit.
“Before we were formed in the womb, God knew us. We are known before we know. This realization has a practical result: no longer do we run here and there, panicked and anxious, searching for the answers to life. Our lives are not puzzles to be figured out. Rather, we come to God, who knows us and reveals to us the truth of our lives. The fundamental mistake is to begin with ourselves and not God. God is the center from which all life develops. If we use our ego as the center from which to plot the geometry of our lives, we will live eccentrically.” Eugene H. Peterson
I’ve noticed that when I mess up, I mean really mess up, like butt dialing my best friend, who now has a recording of me talking smack about her, or purchasing something I can’t afford because I want to appear sophisticated, cool, worthy of your adore. This is like trading in the real me for a plastic version marketed by Mattel. “Oh, the joys of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand around with sinners, or join in with mockers.” (Psalm 1) The good news is God does not abandon me to my sins, God enters into my trouble, right where I am, and somehow I am saved. I have friends who do the same.
We have to realize that our families, our friends, our homes, our jobs have been given to us, and the “only opportunity we will ever have to live by faith is in the circumstances we are provided this very day.” (adapted Peterson) We can’t wait for the new sofa, the next promotion, or when the kids move out to start living righteously. It doesn’t get better than this, or more opportune, everything else is simply a ditch we’ve created to avoid loving, sharing, compromising, and harboring the vulnerable. “And yet I decide, every day, to set aside what I can do best and attempt what I do very clumsily–open myself to the frustrations and failures of loving, daring to believe that failing in love is better than succeeding in pride.” (Peterson)
2017 has come just in the nick of time, let’s put the shovels aside, and walk boldly into a magnificent future. The hell with the questions, our pathetic fears, and pitiful excuses. Life is fertile ground, “like the sacramental use of water and bread and wine, we need to take what is common to the human experience and turn it into something holy.” (Peterson) The only way I can find my way in the dark is by faith, faith in family, faith in friendship, and the safe harbor of home.