I’ve started a new list. It’s titled “Goals for 2017”.
After the title, the list is blank.
I’m stymied. Every year, since around age 16, I’ve written down what I want to do the coming year. Places I want to go. Things I want to do. Outcomes I hope I achieve. The work I plan on completing.
It’s a tad exhausting.
No wonder I’m always worn out at the end of the year.
At this time of year, in the village in Germany, where I grew up, the pace slows. People relax. They see their families. Stores close early. In America, we have 1 day for Christmas and 1 day for New Year’s. In Bavaria, they have 2 ½ days at Christmas, and then another 2 days for New Year’s celebrations. While in America, the average working man or woman puts in 47 hours of work a week; in Germany, the average hours in a work week are 35. Taking vacation, having family time, getting good sleep – all these things are wrapped up in their culture. They don’t even think twice about it. They take the time.
I think I’m having trouble forming a new list of things to accomplish because my world is in a whirlwind. I’m putting in long hours at work; I’m endeavoring to finish school; I’m raising a family; I’m involved in groups and social events; I volunteer. I hear John Denver’s words, “The days, they pass so quickly now, the nights are seldom long,” and I wish time would slow its harried pace.
Slowly, I’m realizing that I am the one making time feel fast and furious. I’m the one that is stuffing my schedule so full that it is about to explode like Clark Griswold’s Christmas turkey. While I’m hurrying from one thing to the next, with my heart palpitating and my chest restricting, the small voice is whispering, “Be still, and know that I am God.”
Be. Still. Know.
Holocaust survivor Corrie ten Boom said once, “With God, there is no time. With God it is always now.”
I don’t see my life as a great, big NOW. I am pushing for the next thing, the next step, the next prize. I work towards goals. I strive for achievement. I look to the future, thinking joy is over there.
Meanwhile, God is whispering, “I am here. I am present. I am now.” The prophet Zephaniah wrote, “The LORD your God is in your midst.” Jesus Himself said, “The Kingdom of Heaven is within you.”
Now is the time for love. Now is the time for redemption. Now is the time for joy for the journey. Now is the time for listening, for empathy, and for compassion. I don’t have to complete a list of prerequisites or bring any sort of qualifications. I don’t have to work really hard or receive rewards. I just have to be open to seeing what God is up to in the moment.
For 2017, I do have plans – some big, some small. I’m excited to do a lot of new things, reach new heights, and work towards my dreams.
However, overall, in this New Year, I’m looking for the unbroken snow.
When a new snow falls on a mountain trail, the first person to hike the path experiences the pleasure of breaking the clean blanket of fresh powder.
The path that had disappeared is then visible again.
I want the paths of grace and peace in my life that have been buried in the avalanche of my plans and human purposes to be cleared.
I’m ready to embrace the present.
Because…to quote King David…
“You will show me the path of life and in Your presence is fullness of joy.”
Right before my eyes. Right in my own home. Right in this very moment.
Happy New Year, Friends.
Someday when my son is older, he’s going to be embarrassed how often I used his picture as the title image for this blog.