The past few weeks have been characterized by flurries: flurries of finish-before-Christmas-break-school work, flurries of get-ready-for-Christmas activities, flurries of snow, flurries of grief, flurries of thought. White-out conditions in my brain…
And now a new year has dawned and people wax eloquent about new opportunities, new starts, fresh goals and noble resolutions while my thoughts drift deep into the inexpressible. Somehow all I can think is how fleeting all of this is…that if all we have are wishes for a happy new year and for things to be different than last year or self-devised plans to better ourselves and our lot in life, then all we can be sure of is a repeat of the same cycles of defeat. The resulting frustration and discouragement often leads to misappropriation of blame…school marks aren’t what I hoped for so I blame the teacher…church life isn’t what I wish it was so I blame the pastor…work environment isn’t meeting my needs so I blame the boss or co-workers. There is never a shortage of people, events, pets, schedules, weather, or circumstances to blame for why we recycle goals and resolutions from year to year.
I am not denying that external factors do indeed affect our lives in often deeply profound or devastating ways, but we are often too quick to discount the internal factors of our own attitudes and choices. Looking at the faltering and failings of others is always easier and more assuring than facing our own.
According to Socrates,“An unexamined life is not worth living.” While most of us attempt to examine our lives at some level, even if it is only as we face a new year, on what criteria are we basing our evaluation? There is never a shortage of standards by which to judge the success of our lives… if I base my life on media portrayals then I definitely need to lose weight and work out more and wear more makeup and colour my greying hair and re-design my wardrobe and my house and my yard and upscale my car, my phone, my blender, and change my toothpaste brand and stop eating wheat and drinking milk. If I base my life on the expectations (real or perceived) of others, then I definitely need to do more (or less), say more (or less), smile more (or less), laugh more (or less), be more efficient (or less so)… perhaps even consider a complete personality make-over because who I am and what I do are woefully inadequate to someone in any given circumstance. Using the wrong criteria leads to mis-focused and confused living. Recycled failures.
So my flurry of thought finally settles here: I am so grateful that God calls me to live based on His standards that never change and are firmly grounded in eternity, righteousness, and holiness. I am grateful for His steadfast love and unending forgiveness because He knows that I am not able to live this life apart from His enabling grace; in my weakness His strength is made perfect. I am grateful that I can invite deep examination of my life and know that He is my rightful Judge and trustworthy Counsellor. So today I say, “Test me, Lord, and try me, examine my heart and my mind,” so that at the end of this day and of this year I can honestly say: “…I have always been mindful of your unfailing love and have lived in reliance on your faithfulness…” (Ps. 26:2,3)