Saturday, January 7, 2017

In a New Year, the Problems and Possibilities Remain

Late afternoon Winter sunlight in Marlow Heights.
We have finished the first week of 2017 already, and I am still debating whether I want to actually make any retrospective remarks on the year that has just past. It was a "remarkable" year for me, this 2016, a painful and profound year.

So much happened. So many processes rooted in last year are still unfolding for me, our family, our growth in faith, our nation (the USA), and the world. I'm not sure I can say much about them yet, because I don't know where they are leading, I don't yet know the shape or the depth of it all.

There's not much point in simply reviewing the all the events in the news: the wars and humanitarian catastrophes, terrorist attacks, racial and social tensions, murders, not to mention the distressing election year in America and all the ways we failed one another in charity, justice, and courtesy. The larger events of the year were personal for many of us, in different ways, and of course we had our own particular dramas and difficulties and burdens to carry.

And though we mark time with numbers, there was nothing magic about midnight on January 1 that made our problems go away. Both the problems and the possibilities remain with us.

What can I say at this point? Like many people, I would have to say that the year 2016 was an exceptionally hard year. Not all of the "hard," however, was "bad." Some of it was clearly very good. Some of it was mysterious and paradoxical. Some of it was just plain crummy, but I am (very slowly) learning to "stay in the crummy" and "walk with it" in hope.

I have good reason for hope, and as I grow older this conviction has only gotten stronger in spite of all my inconsistency and forgetfulness and even my efforts to run away. I am not the source of this confidence; rather it is a stubborn thing that persists beneath my anxieties and problems, an impetus that always urges me to get up off the ground, to go further, inch by inch if necessary. I go on because of the One to whom I belong. In every moment I am held in the hands of that Mystery who makes me and calls me, whose light is greater than all darkness, whose torrents of love water the driest deserts.

There were some pretty dry deserts in 2016. There were new and wonderful discoveries too. I studied quite a bit, researched and wrote my articles and other material, and overall learned a lot. I continued to rediscover music and the arts, photography, and the fascinating details of nature that are accessible to me in the beautiful place where I live.

I also "wrestled with the angel in the night" (see Genesis 32:22-32) yet again, finding myself greatly blessed while also "limping" even worse than before. It has been a very long wrestling match this time, but the broken, crippled man who is emerging from it moves forward and uses all that he has left with a greater urgency. The fire in him is deeper, brighter, more ready to forge anew everything that is drawn into it.