So how many New Year's resolutions have you broken so far?
I wasn't brought up to make New Year's resolutions. My parents taught me that if something was right to do, I should start now. If it was wrong, I should not wait for January 1 to stop. They had a good point, but the fact is that for many of us the new year is a time of thinking back over the past twelve months, noticing things we wish we had done differently and planning how to improve. As my husband and I approach retirement in a couple years, I find myself thinking back farther than the past year.
When I was twenty-six, the new year was full of possibilities. What new experiences would there be? What people would God bring into my life? Where would he lead us? We weren't thinking small here. In the previous year and a half we had worked on an archeological expedition in the Negev, backpacked through Europe and spent nine months teaching at a school for missionary children in Ethiopia while multiple coups shook what I thought I knew to be true about how society operated. Now we were headed for Brazil where we would be involved in theological education--training pastors for a vibrant young church. We didn't yet know which school, which city, which state. There were a wide range of possibilities. We were also soon to be parents. My daughter already knows the gender of the baby growing inside her. I didn't. We shipped lots of green and yellow gender-nonspecific outfits to Brazil. Serving an infinite God who rules the whole earth and is building his kingdom in the most unlikely places meant infinite possibilities for the future of anyone committed to him.
A few months ago I passed my sixtieth birthday. There are fewer possibilities for 2012 than there were when 1978 dawned. I am unlikely to move to a new country. A new grandchild won't affect my lifestyle in quite the same way that his mother and aunt did. After years in theological education it is unlikely that God will call us to development work in the Amazon or nature photography in the Antarctic.
It is not just the things that won't happen in 2012. I am now facing the fact that some things will NEVER happen. I will never live in any of the dream houses I have mentally designed over the years on rolling velt surrounded by African game, or built into a cliff, dripping with bougainvillea with a waterfall spraying my living room windows and feeding the natural pool on the edge of the deck. (I have a vivid imagination.) I will never climb Mt. Kilimanjaro or become a champion ice skater (although I haven't given up the dream of competing at adult nationals again.) And let's face it; I will probably never write a best seller. The stories that excite me are just not the sort of thing that attract mass audiences and inspire tweets to go viral. Dreams laid aside and re-evaluated.
Last week our new pastor, Tim Quinn, brought a sermon from Philippians 3:7-10 for New Years Day. Whatever I have accomplished in the past is rubbish (Pastor Tim used some other words that describe our neighbor's cow pasture) compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord…. (vs. 7)
There are a lot of things I could strive for in 2012--to lose those pounds that have crept on the last few years, to find a new agent, to receive a book contract. I could make resolutions that might help me toward those goals--eat less chocolate, do more sit-ups, assign myself a word count that would produce more writing in a week. But what do I really want in 2012?
My father turned 89 in September. He still spends hours each day with the Lord. He moved to a smaller house recently where someone else does the outdoor maintenance because he decided his time would be better spent discipling men than doing yard work. He's my hero and my role model.
The Apostle Paul wrote, "I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead." (Philippians 3:10-11) I don't think by "somehow" Paul means "It's nearly hopeless," but rather, "I don't understand the incredible mystery of how it works." But that's what I want in 2012: to know Jesus more. The call of New Narnia is "Further up and further in!" ever deeper into the grace of God.
When I was researching and writing Glastonbury Tor, my theme song was Graham Kendrick's "Knowing You." Colin, who had been brought up knowing only a ritualistic religion, needed to know Jesus. Lord, take me back to that hunger in this year of 2012.
All I once held dear built my life upon,
All this world reveres, and wars to own,
All I once thought gain I have counted loss,
Spent and worthless now, compared to this:
Knowing you, Jesus, knowing you.
There is no greater thing.
You're my all; you're the best;
You're my joy, my righteousness,
And I love you, Lord.
Now my heart's desire is to know you more;
To be found in you, and known as yours;
To possess by faith what I could not earn:
All surpassing gift of righteousness.
Oh, to know the power of your risen life,
And to know you in your suffering;
To become like you in your death, my Lord.
So with You to live
And never die
LeAnne Hardy has lived in six countries on four continents. Her books come out of her cross-cultural experiences and her passion to use story to convey spiritual truths in a form that will permeate lives.
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