January 11, 2017/
I LOVE the start of a new year. Although there’s nothing inherently magical about the stroke of midnight December 31, or the turn of a new calendar page, there’s a collective sense of possibility. Whereas any other Monday you can decide to start afresh, on January 1 the rest of the world* is with you. You can look across at the middle-aged man on the bus knowing he’ll daydream about tomorrow, considering what he hopes for his future, and if he made wise choices in 2016. In a small and wonderful way we’re all in the same boat.
Last year was hard. Globally we witnessed the refugee crisis demonstrate the magnificent distress of war. Western political pillars were disrupted as ‘Brexit’ was coined, and Trump printed t-shirts. Countless icons in the entertainment industry were lost, with the BBC reportedly running more obituaries in the first half of 2016 than all of 2015. We were again rocked by terrorism, startled by man’s ability to be so inhumane to our own kind. For the first time in a long time there was a nondiscriminatory awareness of society’s greater needs.
On the back of such a tumultuous year it can be easy to feel despondent, shaken up, or even nonchalant about the world’s future. And yet, it would seem like the greatest moment to lean in.
Isaiah 43:18-19 says, “Forget the former things; do not dwell in the past. See I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up: do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.”
For all that happened in 2016, and in all the ways it will spill over in 2017, we still have the opportunity to step into the new. To take hold of what God is doing now. If 2016 was a year of transition, 2017 is all about laying roots in new ground.
Three years ago I wrote TCP’s first ‘New Year’s’ piece: ‘What Are You Picking Up?’ I spoke about the jobs/tasks/to-do lists we make for ourselves and allow to weigh on our minds as we keep saying ‘Yes’, ‘I will’, and ‘Sounds great!’ There was an urgency to consider what we commit to, and invest ourselves in. This year, I’d like to ask instead, WHAT WILL YOU PUT DOWN? What do you need to “forget”?
1) the idea that ‘their’ problem isn’t my problem.
In a world as connected as ours, we’re global citizens. There’s no distance between persecuted Christians in Iraq, or Syrian refugees, and Australian school children. Our stories may be different but we’re the same generation. Sharing this time in history, and profoundly able to impact one another, be it through our voice, our time, or our finance. ‘Their’ problem is our problem, and we are resourced both spiritually and practically to own it, and to do what can to rectify it. We don’t know who may need us in 2017, but let’s decide to personally invest in solution.
2) our fear of ‘real’ conversation.
As the soul of the world is increasingly laid bare through economic hardship, leadership busts, and individual displacement, we can’t avoid the need to go deep. As society’s greater needs are exposed, we need permission to respectfully sidestep political correctness in favour of healthy debate. We can’t deny big questions are being asked of God, spirituality, race, gender, and how we relate to another. Your personal values are important. Talk about them. Ask other people about theirs. Decide to have worthwhile conversations.
3) doubt in the future.
I’m always an ‘onward and upward’ kind of person, but sometimes it’s ‘onward and upward’ from lying on the floor with a sprained ankle, not the couch with Netflix and chips. How the world is lead will be different this year. Millions are still in slavery, and thousands are without homes or country. In addition to the big issues, we all have our circumstances we’re dealing with too. It doesn’t have to mean we’ll be worse off or that we’re in the perilous situation it’s easy to believe we are, but we certainly have a major responsibility to choose our attitudes and our actions. .
My prayer for this year is that it be framed with a new understanding of God’s goodness. Knowing He’ll never leave us or forsake us, that He knows the plans and purposes He has for us, and that even when it all seems to go belly-up, He can be our Peace.
In 2017 I want to put down attitudes that hinder me from knowing God as He truly is. I want to put down any inhibitions about my ability to have Christ-like compassion for another person, and have an eternal impact their life. I want to love God the best way I can, and in turn be stellar at loving others. Regardless of what your 2016 looked like let’s not dwell on it – good or bad. There’s new ground to get planted in.
Are you picking up what I’m putting down? (oh yep… pun intended).
*except for the Chinese, Balinese, and a couple others… but that wouldn’t have sounded nearly as good.
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