The future enters into us, in order to transform itself in us, long before it happens. (Rainer Maria Rilke)
Scripture Passage for Reflection: Isaiah 62: 10
Go through, go through the gates, prepare the way for the people; build up, build up the highway, clear it of stones, lift up an ensign over the peoples.
I heard today that “selfie” is the word of the year for 2013. Amazing, really, that the most prevalent part of our lives as a people and as a culture has to do with taking a picture of oneself; in other words, the thing that we have elevated to the most descriptive part of who we are is a focus on our selves. But look, look up ahead! There is so much out there. There is beauty that we’ve never seen and things that we’ve never experienced. There are those that can teach us, those that can lead us, and those that can walk with us. There is more to us than our selves that we have fabricated, the selves that we think are “photo-ready” for the world.
Once again, we find ourselves standing at the gate of a new year. We’ve done this before. We’ve made resolutions and with every part of our being have meant to change our course, to do things differently, or to make our lives better or more fulfilling. Perhaps our problem is that as we enter the gate each year, we enter something new but we somehow manage to drag our own baggage with us. We step through the threshold still harboring regrets of past failures or fears for what may lie ahead. We don’t really want to let go of those selves that we have worked so hard to show to the world. Our eyes are still inwardly focused.
This gate is a place of liminality, where our eyes are opened to both the past and the future. It is the place where we connect to both. Now I don’t think that we can possibly separate one time from the next, nor do we want to. God has placed us in a world that was here long before any of us came to be and one that will more than likely be here long after any of us are gone. We do not exist in a vacuum. Each of our years builds upon the ones before and our lives build upon lives that came before us, some of which we never knew. Each of us are called to be builders, one brick at a time, to build this road that God lays before us. So which brick is yours to place? What part is yours to build? And what parts do you have to set down and leave behind so that your hands will be free to build?
In her book, There Is a Season, Sr. Joan Chittister tells a story that goes: Once upon a time some disciples asked their rabbi, “In the book of Elijah we read: ‘Everyone in Israel is duty bound to say, “When will my work approach the works of my ancestors, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob?”’ But how are we to understand this? How could we in our time ever venture to think that we could do what they could?” The rabbi explained: “Just as our ancestors invented new ways of serving, each a new service according to their own character—one the service of love, the other that of stern justice, the third that of beauty—so each one of us in our own way must devise something new in the light of the teachings and of service and do what has not yet been done.”
Devising something new…no pressure there! But maybe it’s not a “thing”. Maybe it’s just a new way of looking at one’s life, a way of looking at the world and one’s place in it. It means oh so much more than a selfie! (Which I guess is no longer put into quotes since it is apparently an actual word!) This gate is the place where we embrace what we’ve been handed from those that came before us as well as the self of our past. This gate is the place where we can peer into the unknown. The gate is the place where we begin our new selves.
I stand at the gate of this new year. I do not know what the other side will show me or what the road will hold. I know that there are things that I love, things that I think in this moment that I cannot live without, that I will leave behind and people and things that I do not know that will become part of me. I know that I will feel joy and grief. I know that there is beauty that I have not seen and lessons that I have not learned. I know that there are things that I will discover, things that I will write, and things that I will make my own. I know that there are new dances to dance. I know that there are those things that will bring me closer to God. But, above all, I know that the other side of the gate holds God’s vision for me, the vision of the self that I am supposed to become.
Sacred Mystery, Waiting on the threshold of this New Year, you open the gates and beckon to me: “Come! Come! Be not wary of what awaits you as you enter the unknown terrain, be not doubtful of your ability to grow from its joys and sorrows. For I am with you. I will be your Guide. I will be your Protector. You will never be alone.”
Guardian of the New Year, I set aside my fears, worries, concerns. I open my life to mystery, to beauty, to hospitality, to questions, to the endless opportunity of discovering you in my relationships, and to all the silent wisps of wonder that will draw me to your heart.
I welcome your unfailing Presence and walk with hope into this New Year. Amen.
(Joyce Rupp, Out of the Ordinary: Prayers, Poems, and Reflections for Every Season)
Have a wonderful and blessed New Year!
Grace and Peace,