We have reached the end of 2010. As do many, I both look back and look forward at the calendar change. I spend time cleaning out files, drawers, and closets in preparation for the new year. I try to catch up on people I’ve neglected. I also start a new folder on my computer, labeled with the year number. So folder “2011 files” has been created, and will soon fill with my writings, messages, articles I particularly like, spreadsheets, bank statements, worship notes, photos, correspondence, and other life markings.
That folder marks a fresh start with work. But there is a far greater fresh start before me. The turning of the calendar reminds me of one of my favorite scriptures, Lamentations 3:22-23, where I read that God’s mercies “are new every morning.” For me, the changing of the calendar says, “acknowledge those daily new mercies.”
I have identified six practices that block my awareness of God’s mercies. I’ve learned that when I pay attention to these things, I am far more able to see God’s daily given mercies, to enjoy a free and light soul, and, even more importantly, to pass them on to others. I offer these to you at this year end:
Number one: Lay down the idea that gifts always come with strings. Learn to receive the gifts given by God and others with thankfulness and without suspicion. Should there be a string attached, that is the giver’s problem, not mine. Receive simply and give simply.
Number two: Stop letting others make my important choices for me. Live with courage, integrity and out of a strongly formed character despite the actions and attitudes of others. When I use a phrase that sounds something like, “I can’t do that (be obedient to God, be truthful, live generously, say a strong “no” to injustice and so forth) because someone else will (not like it, get mad at me, not respond the way I want them to, etc.),” then I am permitting others to make my vital choices. That is a death decision. Choose life.
Number three: Relinquish any idea that security may be found in any human institution including church, family, economics and politics. It won’t happen. When the primary driver of my life is to be secure, I immediately move to the worship of money and things and become very resistant to God, to change and to the needs of others.
Number four: Quit insisting that I occupy the center of the universe and that God stands ready to do my bidding. I am not the center and God is not my celestial vending machine. Those attitudes are appropriate only for the tiniest of babies, not for mature adults.
Number five: Leave behind the fallacy that if I understand enough about why something happens, I can also find meaning in random events. This does not mean giving up intellectual curiosity or scientific endeavor. It does mean that I need to recognize that there will always be mystery beyond my understanding, and that mystery will always be much bigger than my ability to grasp it or make complete sense of it. Learn to appreciate the wildness of mystery rather than domesticate or tame it.
Number six: Acknowledge my fear of innocence and vulnerability to being hurt by others. Leave behind cynicism and seek to transform fear into trust that goodness does permeate a universe held together by a good God. While I say to grow up and stop insisting that I am the center of the universe, I also know that I must find again the child within that enjoys intrinsic trust in an ever-present God who does very much love me.
Thanks for reading what I write. Send me your comments and thoughts. And have a blessed 2011!