I know you must be exhausted by the number of New Years posts on your various social media news feeds – so, sorry to add to your misery. I used to be like that, except recently I’ve come to buy into the power of human consciousness – that there’s something to be said for everyone being on the same page at the same time – kinda like Christmas. Christmas is Christmas because everyone is celebrating it at the same time (now, there’s a discussion to be had about what exactly people are celebrating, but that’s for another day.)
So, I have come to love New Years because yes – while you should be able to “turn a new leaf” whenever you want – there’s something to be said for the chance to do it when everyone else is, too.
The other day, I found myself in the familiar surroundings of Madison County, where I’m from. I sat on a couch I hadn’t sat in for about a year, having a conversation with a man who is a dear friend of mine, a man I’ve seen all too little over the course of this year – my old pastor.
As the visit approached, I was going over in my head how the conversation would go, what all we would talk about. What a year! I mean, a year earlier, he’d released me with the blessing of the church, and effectively, that was that. I barely saw him or my old church family for the next year.
The landscape has changed a lot over 2015. I work a lot more, I see a whole different set of people, I traveled to a few new places, etc.
And, if I’m frank – it hasn’t been a very good year. I don’t mean that to complain, I don’t mean to say that things haven’t gotten a lot better since they got worse, but if I’m realistic, there have been some low lows this year. I’ve made my biggest mistakes this year, I’ve let my temper get the better of me, I’ve dealt with more bouts of anxiety and histrionics than ever before – it just…wasn’t a good year.
But that visit couldn’t have come at a better time.
Because this was the man who taught me what it is to be a man – how to make tough choices, how to be disciplines, how to be loved, and how to love others. How to love God, how to approach the Bible, how to be honest, how to be real.
How to live life on the front foot.
I’ve been considering that idea for a long time now, and I think that within the dynamics of that statement lies the summation of how I saw last year and how I hope to approach this one.
2015 can be described as: undisciplined, selfish, mistake-riddled, unbalanced, unsure, anxious, fearful, cautious, desperate. Reactive. Reactive in a lot of ways – in how I dealt with a text message being ignored; in how I worked; in how I used my spare time; in how I spent my money; in how I dealt with broken/fractured/failed relationships; in how I saw the church; and so on and so forth.
I got rocked by a lot of change, and as a result I’ve been living on the back foot. Defensively.
But I think it’s better to live on the front foot – to be proactive. To make choices about your friendships ahead of time, to make decisions about your money and your work, to plan your schedule and your time, to be proactive in your thought life, to love people, to keep your eyes up instead of constantly on yourself – that’s life on the front foot.
And that’s a life that sounds a hell of a lot better to me.
So the question remains, how do you get there? And, to return to my preacher’s roots, I prefer to approach it theologically.
I think that these sorts of issues often boil down to whether you see yourself as just another orphan, or as a son. Orphans live from a place of searching for love and acceptance, and refusing to believe that the love they receive is permanent – it is a drop of water in the desert instead of a stream. It helps, but it doesn’t satisfy.
Sons live from a place of being loved, and let that love inform all their actions, behaviors, decisions, and cognitions. Love is their schema. They don’t have to form another one.
And how easy it is to forget that God, in the person of Jesus, took all of the necessary actions to take us from orphans to sons – that said action is irrevocable, and our names our written, never to be erased.
That’s where it starts. That’s where it ends. It all starts with love – with being loved so that you can love others. With being secure in who you are so that if you find yourself rejected by others, you know you’re loved by the very person who made you.
And nothing else (I finally, after two years of preaching it and a year of wrestling with it, realize [at least for a moment]) matters.