We’ve turned a page on the calendar. Brand new year, new month. I wonder what God has in store in the year to come? For a few months I’ve been drawn to the verse, “Behold, I am doing a new thing, will you not see it?” And yet I know that before I can get to the new, I need to make room for it. I need to make sure I’ve inventoried what’s gone before.
As I reflected on 2018, I was surprised to notice how mixed my feelings were. We’d recently welcomed our first grandson into the world, a huge source of joy for our entire family. I’d had reason to give thanks for a number of things pertaining to my calling and ministry. Life is good in this season, for so many reasons. Yet in my journal I also noted a number of things that I would call challenging, distressing or just plain sad. My mother’s declining mobility, a number of dear friends who are struggling in heart-rending ways, the death of my hospice patient, the loss of our beloved dog Deacon, to name just a few. Things that weighed on my heart and soul that perhaps I hadn’t fully allowed myself to feel or grieve over. Maybe it would be good to revisit each and see what else they had to teach me.
I reported to my spiritual director what I was planning, and she thought it was an excellent idea. As she put it, “It could be good to take some time to notice how God met you in each of these.” Yes. That is a crucial piece of remembering, asking where and how God was with me in both my joys and my sorrows. It is what gives meaning to the season we just celebrated, of God taking on flesh and walking among us as Emmanuel, “God with us.” I was grateful for that reminder.
I know I’m not always aware of the burdens I carry, sometimes rushing through difficulties and conflicts in my hurry to get to a place of peace. And so I did take a day to sit with God and reflect, to give thanks and to weep. To ask over each circumstance, “Where were you in this joy, in this sadness?” It isn’t always clear in the moment, especially in situations that have no resolution. Which is why it helped to have someone else ask this question and encourage me to look back and see God’s footprints alongside mine. As the day came to a close, I felt peace descending. I’d released some of the burdens I had carried unknowingly over my losses. I felt I’d taken important time to listen to my emotions, yet never felt alone in them. I’d listened as well for God’s voice, reminding me that he is with me always, in all things I face, whether I label them consolations or desolations. He can use them all. I feel ready now to wonder again about the new things that will fill my journal in this new year. I trust they will bring good to my life, because God is good. In his economy, nothing is wasted.
As you feel invited, take a span of time: a day, a week, even a year of your life and do an inventory. As you look back, notice when you felt joy and when you felt sorrowful. Notice when you felt at peace and when were upset or conflicted. What were the circumstances around each? Do you see a pattern that might merit more attention? How might God be speaking to you through your life? How would you like to respond?