The New Year always seems to put me in a quandary. Is the arrival of a new year a time for looking back at the year that has concluded, or is it a time to make new commitments for a year that is beginning to unfold? I am sure it is both, and equally sure one is of no use without the other.
To look back is an important act of contemplation. The pace of life often distracts us from valuable remembering. The events of our lives shape us and if we do not take time to remember them we will be shaped but we may not know what our shape is. To remember is also to savor --to taste again what was beautiful about a moment, a conversation, a learning, a deepening relationship, an accomplishment, a surprise. This savoring is to remember what God has done for us in the many facets of our lives.
To remember may sometimes mean to regret. As people of faith, we can experience regret, even guilt without fear that it will control or dominate our existence. This is because the One who continues to arrive in our midst, is a bearer of forgiveness and a healer of our deepest wounds.
To remember may also be to grieve. Our year may have had loss --of a loved one, of a job or an ability, of a cherished idea or dream. To grieve is to honor the important place something or someone has had in our lives. It is to give time to the recognition that life has been shaped by what has been, as well as recognition that life is now changed forever. To ignore, suppress or dismiss this grief is to pretend that life goes on unchanged, unaffected--to present a false self to the world.
To turn back in this way is not to stay trapped in days gone by, but to bring our whole selves into the future. We look forward in light of our particular past. We claim a vision of hope because we have faced our regrets and wounds. We become more deeply connected with others because we have opened ourselves to the vulnerability of grief.
To embrace a new year is to imagine transformation. Change is the human (and non-human for that matter) condition. What change in us will be a more full reflection of the Kingdom of God for our time? What new practice or learning or commitment might more completely express the good news that God is indeed with us? What might need to be set aside or given up to create the space in our minds, hearts, homes, schedules, to make room for the story of Christ's compassion to emerge from our ordinary lives?
So remember and savor, regret and grieve. Open to the change that God is creating in silent gestures. Give thanks for another turning of the year.