January 1, 2017
First Sunday After Christmas
“I will recount the gracious deeds of the Lord,
the praiseworthy acts of the Lord,
because of all that the Lord has done for us…
that he has shown them according to his mercy,
according to the abundance of his steadfast love.” (Isaiah 63:7-8)
Earlier this fall, our neck of the woods–actually, our neck of the coast of South Carolina–took a hit from Hurricane Matthew. As meteorologists made predictions about the path and strength of the storm, our governor (and, perhaps more importantly, our Commanding Officer!) issued a mandatory evacuation order. With one evening’s notice, my husband and a neighbor helped each other put the heavy plywood storm shutters on the windows of our houses. As our home got progressively more cave-like, I roamed from room to room, packing first suitcases of clothes and toiletries, then trying to pick and choose the few family heirlooms, the precious memories, that we simply had to take along. On that night before our departure, I found myself feeling heartbroken, frozen in trying to decide what I could walk away from.
As we enter in to a New Year, I’m still asking myself this question. Instead of looking ahead to plan a resolution for 2017, I’m thinking back over the past year, looking around my “house” at all the stuff I’ve been holding on to, and considering what I need to carry forward. There’s plenty I can let go of without a second thought: the guilt of all the “shoulds” I didn’t do and all the “shouldn’ts” that I did. There are things I can say grace over, and then release from my grasp: the friendships for a season, the phases in my children’s lives.
Finally, there are the things I dare not leave behind: unexpected opportunities that confirmed and expanded my sense of calling. Undeserved mercies that inspired me to pay it forward. Unanswered questions that forced open my narrow opinions.
In all these ways and countless more, God “lifted [us] up and carried [us] all the days of old” (Is. 63:9b), through the year that is now behind us. We all have collections gathering dust, books unread, priceless souvenirs of places we’ve lived and people we’ve loved. We all have heirlooms of God’s faithfulness, scrapbooks full of testimony. The stories of God’s gracious deeds and praiseworthy acts, “all that the Lord has done for us,” are our most precious gifts; we’ll pack them into our suitcases and carry them close, keep them with us wherever the days, months, years ahead may find us. Because the “abundance of God’s steadfast love” isn’t just a season or a phase; it is our past and our future. It is our last year, and it is our new life.
Even if we wanted to, we could never leave it behind.