There's only one way to a better you in 2021, and it might not be the one you expected.
2020 has been a poop pile. That is the general consensus at least. The year of the unpredictable, the unrelenting, the unimaginable. If you felt thrown, pressured beyond possibility and powerless, you are not alone. I'm not sure where you fall on the spectrum of the hardest hit, but my heart goes out to you.
With 2020 behind us, buried in a sea of roast chicken, holiday leave and beaches, you might be feeling a little more optimistic about the coming year.
I hope so.
You wouldn't be blamed for feeling a sense of uncertainty, of disassociation.
But people do what people do and we do it well.
We get up, we put our socks on and turn on the coffee machine. We take our children to the park and the movies and the zoo. We BBQ with friends and we check our emails.
We get on with life.
2020 was the upending of the canoe.
We are back in the vessel.
There is no beauty
'Who has believed our report?
And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant,
And as a root out of dry ground.
He has no form or comeliness;
And when we see Him,
There is no beauty that we should desire Him.
He is despised and rejected by men,
A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.'
I am a fool.
Not in the sense of worth or human intelligence, rather, I'm a fool because I continue to pursue what I know to not be good. I drink the coffee that sets my nervous system into overdrive. I eat the food that rounds out my belly, my thighs and my arteries. And, on deeper notes and harder days, I think about fidelity, about choice and sexual gratification outside of my marriage bed.
I’m not alone.
At the beginning of each new year I think about the choices I will make and what I would like the year to be. I make good choices for the most part, and I'm sure that you do, too.
When I read this passage in Isaiah, I ask myself, 'why was the Messiah acquainted with grief?' He knew no loss. His disciples died after he did. His mother was at his grave. He resurrected his dead friend. What is the grief that the Messiah claimed?
The realisation of it settles in on me with a humble clarity.
The Messiah's grief is not the grief of his own unmet needs. Need is the currency of humanity.
His grief is that of a love which seeks the best for the other, and yet still, is not chosen.
If my child chooses what I know will not profit him in the end, I am not saddened for myself.
Love wants the best.
I think, therefore, I choose
If it isn't beautiful, if it isn't shiny, if it doesn't leave me rolling with satisfaction, I am unlikely to choose it.
And even when I choose the humble over the sensational, I find, my own lowly desires creeping in, corrupting even the good which I may choose.
'For what I am doing, I do not understand.
For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do.'
I am a thorough mess.
From the inside to the outside, I am infused with both good and not-good. It is established in my very being; my innermost consciousness; my deepest self.
Life, known to man, is simple math.
If it doesn't profit me, I will not choose it.
Drunkenness, promiscuity and overindulgence are not a surprising part of the human experience.
They offer their own reward, although their intrinsic math is all off; they cost more than they deliver in the long run. But these are the temporal measures that profit man in the moment.
They allow me to escape, to take pleasure, to satiate my appetites, to release me from the constraints of a moral imperative. And they often work.
Of course, we always know better. Still, we are tempted to shortcut the math.
If I am to step back and to look at why I choose what I know I should not choose, I trace the roots back to two causes time and time again. Both different and both needing different treatment.
- I choose what I know to be not-good so that I may escape the pain.
- I choose what I know to be not-good because I want to take the best for myself.
The pain of the life I have lived, the people who have misunderstood me, the moments where I felt alone, confused and dark. These pains have left holes in my understanding. I am operating on half-system, doing my best to choose life in the face of pain, unprocessed.
I am the woman at the well, seeking the healing that comes from a man's body. To be chosen, is to be loved, even for a moment. I do not choose well, for this kind of broken love so often is an extension of someone else's broken self; their desire to have, to satisfy their needs, to conquer. The two do not meet well. A person of conscience will, in time, come to understand this.
I am brokenness.
I choose because I want the best.
I want to be the desired. The one you worship. I want to be like God and even, made in the image of God, even with the heart of God, at my core, I have the desire to take from you. I am King David on the castle wall. I am the thief who brings your wife to my bed while you are at war. I, even with the heart of a king, a heart in the image of God, have a desire inside. To rule. To have. I do not want to wait. I do not want boundaries. I will take as much as I can get away with.
I will tread on others to take what I want.
I am sin.
To be human, is to lapse in and out.
To be human is to find at your core, a complex paradox of great possibility for good and great possibility for evil.
The capability to break and to be broken.
To heal and to be healed.
To be human is to know that the power of choice is always ours.
For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), finding out what is acceptable to the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret. But all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light, for whatever makes manifest is light. Therefore He says:
“Awake, you who sleep, Arise from the dead, And Christ will give you light.”
See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.
Where are you at, dear friend and fellow soldier?
Is your struggle with wounds, with brokenness?
Let your pain come forward.
Bring it to the foreground so it may be healed. Go to the counsellor. The trusted friend. Read the book. Take the risk. Do it wisely, in small measures.
Is your struggle with sin?
The desire to take, to wreak, without reckoning the cost?
Let your sin be exposed.
Look at it with honest eyes. Take it to God, who gives and who takes away.
May 2021 be the year of Discernment.
Of great honesty with self and of self.
May 2021 not be wrapped in silver bows and all that sparkles, but in twine and brown paper.
May you find the gifts that ease your soul. The love that binds your wounds. May you turn over your desire to rule for the humility of the hidden. That quiet and steady good.
May 2021 be your best year yet.