As this truly remarkable year draws to a close, I pause to ponder and reflect. For a long time, new year has been a really significant part of my path through life. A time to notice what is happening, a time to pause and reconsider my rule of life… what is important for this time, where do I need to focus my energy, my thoughts, my prayers… what do I need to let go of. I have often put together a collage for the year ahead, capturing my hopes and dreams, my thoughts and plans.
This time last year, in the midst of depression and anxiety, I still continued with my pattern. To stop and ponder at new year, and to set my direction for the year to come. Construction of a large collage was beyond my energy and imagination at the time. Even coming up with my own words was challenging. Goals, aspirations and dreams all felt flat. I prayed with various bible characters, noticing their times of waiting, of wilderness.
On New Year’s Eve last year, I finally chose a bible verse for the year ahead. At the time it seemed like a bit of a cop out, compared to how I have approached it in previous years. With hindsight, I picked the most enormous goal ever. I selected Luke 10:27
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbour as yourself.”
In particular… loving your neighbour as yourself… and the challenge that if I did that, my neighbour’s would find me very unloving and uncaring.
So my focus last year, was to learn what it means to actually love myself – to learn to love the person that I am.
As I approach this new year, I feel even more daunted. The last twelve months have delivered on last year’s goal in spades! In ways beyond my wildest imaginings. Through situations and experiences that seemed so difficult, so tough… And yet… to achieve this radical paradigm shift… for me to have started to actually accept the person that I am… to get out of my lifelong comfort zone of feeling not good enough… of striving to achieve… something radical was needed, to force me to let go of my ‘normal’.
I am forever grateful for all that the last year has held, for the massive gifts within the most unexpected journey. I am now able to look in the mirror and smile at myself. This is the first year in my life that I’ve been able to do that, to actually look at myself in the mirror and be glad to know the person looking back, to accept the reality of who I am.
And now, I stand on the threshold of this near year. Throughout last year, the word presence has become more and more significant. The gift of being present to myself as I am, now. The privilege of being alongside other people, being present to them. The joy of dwelling in God’s presence, of living in the current moment of life, whatever it holds, and being open to all that it offers.
So, my word for the coming year is presence, and the bible verse that I have chosen is Psalm 46:10
“Be Still and Know that I am God.”
My picture for the year ahead, is one that I painted a few weeks ago, whilst on retreat. My guide encouraged me to sit and pray with the icon of friendship, and in particular to picture myself within this icon. What would it be like to live life, knowing that Jesus was alongside me.
Whilst the sentiment is really interesting, I hit a complete block. This is a picture of two men, dressed in brown, against a brown hillside… I really can’t picture myself in this image… no, I really can’t… it doesn’t fit at all. That is not what I look like… and that is not the picture that resonates with me of Jesus…
And so… I painted my own version of the icon of friendship… for me to pray with. To be able to imagine myself in this picture, I need to pray with a picture that makes that easier. I’m not sure that it will be any help to you.. but hopefully it gives you permission to create your own images, your own tools that are useful to you.
I am excited at the prospect of the new year. I have no idea where this journey will take me next, nor where yours will lead. I’m learning to live better within that uncertainty, to sit lightly to plans and goals. To enjoy the freedom and liberation, of living gently with myself, of accepting who I am… and how much easier that makes it to accept who other people are too.
As I write this, I realise quite how much my sermon from the Christmas midnight service is as much a sermon to me as it is for anyone else!
But I know that this is still a journey of transformation, as it is for all of us, so I’m excited to see where it will lead.
“Be Still and Know that I am God.”
Whatever this year has held… whatever is coming next year, praying that you will be able to live with the gifts of what has happened, and the blessings of this present moment.