How was your Christmas? Did you finish the day fulfilled? Were all your longings met? Were you happy the entire time? Can you look back and say, yes, I wasn’t a bit disappointed?
I’m sure you’ve seen the classic cartoon of the kids surrounded by shredded wrapping paper, boxes, and piles of new toys. Amidst all that plenty, they’re asking, “Is that all there is?” Christmas comes with so much hype, of course we feel a bit let down afterward. How can a single day (or two, depending on how you celebrate) meet all our expectations?
The news items scroll down my screen: death, destruction, evil, hopeless. After years of war, starting from before the U.S. involvement and seemingly without end, Afghanistan has to be one of the darkest places on earth.
Yet, God loves the people of Afghanistan. He has not left them hopeless.
Thanksgiving. That lovely holiday, with the family gathered around the table. Soft music plays in the background, snow gently falls outside. Dad is carving the succulent turkey while the children sit quietly in their seats, mouths watering. The conversation circles the table as each person describes the many things they have been thankful for this past year.
Thanksgiving, that hectic holiday. Mom is trying to gather the family, put the final touches on the dinner, pour the drinks, and carve the turkey, all at the same time. At one end of the table, Aunt Mattie is well into yet another stomach-turning description of her recent root canal. At the other end, Uncle Milt has clearly imbibed too much eggnog. Grandpa is complaining that the pouring rain is making his rheumatism flare up. The eight-year-old twins are poking one another with their forks and fighting over who will get the drumsticks, while the football game blares from the TV in the next room. No one has seen Dad in the several years since he ran off with that floozy account manager.
January is a time for new beginnings. From making (and breaking) resolutions, to making new plans and starting new projects, January brings the hope that whatever happened last year, this year can be different.
While there is a certain amount of list-making at the end of the year—everything from “The 10 Best Android Games of 2010” to “The Worst Fashion Trends of the Year”—we usually forget all that come January 1. Especially in our culture, what’s past is past, and what’s important lies ahead. Overall, I think that’s a good thing.
As my history teachers liked to remind me, studying the past can provide valuable lessons. Yet, there is a difference between learning from the past and wallowing in it. Yes, someone may have offended us. Our cause might have lost an election—or a battle, or even the war. (I get a mental image of the civil war reenactment in “Sweet Home Alabama”—an actual, if somewhat dated, cultural reference!) We might have had a bad childhood, and bad marriage, or a bad year at school. It’s good to learn from mistakes, be them ours or someone else’s.
How many times have you laid in bed, staring upward, trying to pray, but feeling that your thoughts are being absorbed by the ceiling? Or you’re diligently reading through your Bible, hoping the Holy Spirit will speak to you, but all you get are meaningless phrases, and you’re not even in the genealogies? You’re praying, you’re reading, you’re listening, begging, for some sign of life, but all you get is silence?
If that sounds familiar, you’re not alone. We’ve all been there. When I committed to writing this blog, I realized that I was going out on a limb. Because, more importantly than the recipes, media reviews, and hopefully helpful advice, I want to share my walk with God. A hundred years from now it won’t matter how the carrot cake tasted, or even what our credit rating was. Our relationship with God is eternal .