So tomorrow ends 2013. I’ve been reflecting a bit on how this year has transpired and one thought kept bubbling to the top – it didn’t go as I expected. That’s not necessarily a good or bad thing; it just is what it is.
I started out the year kind of skeptical as I wrote in Cracking the Door to 2013. There is something exciting and anticipatory about a new year. But its like that Forrest Gump infamous line, the new year is a box of chocolates; you never know what you’re going to get. Sure enough, whereas I had secret hope that some things would finally start turning around, it actually went the other way or at least from outward appearances.
I was told in February that that the job that had sustained me since the start of seminary was ending. I had already been experiencing a growing frustration and realizing that what I was doing was at cross purposes with where my skills, interests and passions lay. Thinking that this was the time for transition, I took a position that really wasn’t the right direction and didn’t work out too well. I left in November. So whereas at the beginning of 2013, I had hoped that whatever transition that seemed to be in the works would manifest itself, turns out just the opposite. I end the year, a bit more uncertain than when I started though with a couple of likely prospects. I never would have guessed I’d be where I am now, especially so close to graduation. It did challenge me on where I found my significance – in my accomplishments or in Christ?
I’ve also had to contend with a persistent valley and fighting against discontentment and self-pity that needed the boot. I’m grateful for the continual reminders that are necessary to promote gratitude and prevent bitterness. There are certain aspects in my personal life that I had hoped by now would have changed but haven’t. I honestly would not have expected things to go as they have.
I don’t want this to sound negative. It’s not meant to. Rather, there is something very disconcerting about setting up expectations then having that hoped dashed. But then I wonder how much of these expectations are imposed by the vehicle we’ve made a new year. It’s a new year, so we can expect new and better things to happen. But what if it goes the opposite and you get hit with news you weren’t expecting or losses of various sorts. That could be heartbreaking in light of great expectations.
I say this because the reality is that we never know what the year will hold. Surely, it can turn out better than we hoped and we could get surprises that we didn’t see coming. But on the other hand, it could get worse and we get knocked for a loop. Or it could remain the same. It is rather presumptuous of us to say how a year will go.
Come now, you who say ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit’ – yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.’ (James 4:12-15).
Of course this doesn’t mean that we don’t have plans, goals, discipline or even expectations. But it does mean that God does not operate by calendar flips and our timetables. In his providence, things go as they go and he’s working stuff out that we could never wrap our puny brains or plans around. If life is hid in Christ, you can very well expect that things probably won’t go as expected. I’m also mindful of the fact that even in the low points we didn’t see coming or the things that don’t seem to change, that he is persistently working behind the scenes for something better. What may look like a downturn could actually be a upturn in progress.
To be honest, I don’t know whether’s its disappointment or cautious realism talking, but I do think we need to place hope in the proper context. While we may hope a new year brings something better, our ultimate hope is in the One who will ultimately make all things better. We can hope for a glimmer of that now but not simply because its January 1st. But more importantly, put hope in the heavenly Father’s hands who is working all things together for good.
Now there are some things I look forward to happening in 2014. I look forward to graduation in May and receiving that diploma 6 years in the making. I look forward to seeing my daughter after a year in S. Korea. I look forward to a possible trip to California. Beyond that, who knows? God does and I’ll just trust in what he is doing.