Fresh Energy and Hope: The Opportunity of a New Year...

2020 has been quite a year. I have learned valuable lessons and gained wisdom as a direct result of this year's challenges -- and sometimes as a result of the mistakes I've made and the lack of wisdom I've exercised in handling those challenges. Although I have grown and learned so much, I also still wrestle with ongoing questions. 

How can we make 2021 a year of healing and hope? Or maybe the question would be better phrased this way: How can I make 2021 a year of healing and hope? A world problem begins with a heart problem. Individuals, families, communities all set the stage for the healing of nations and the world. 

As this year ends and a fresh new year begins, it's an opportunity to both reflect and look forward; to set an agenda for the next chapter of our lives. How might I set a different tone in my own life? How might I impact the lives of others in a more healing way? How might I diminish division in my immediate realm? 

Where there is unresolved conflict, how might I communicate my unconditional love to someone, without inflicting unwanted or unwise communication? 

How might I reach out in love while refraining from unproductive pursuing? (I have always pursued people and relationships — even when I knew I should let go. I'm trying to outgrow that unhealthy part of me and wait patiently on God's will and timing.)

How might we attempt meaningful connection with someone we love, but with the shared understanding that there is no expectation of that “moment” leading to anything more? (I never want anyone I love to think they are out of sight, out of mind. Yet I accept the reality that our individual paths may include traveling separately or distantly for long stretches.)

How do we honor someone else’s pain or perspective without sharing their narrative? (I never want to invalidate the feelings of someone I love. But, at the same time, I cannot insincerely share a perspective just to avoid conflict and disagreement.)

How do we maintain a strongly held conviction and personal boundary but still reach out in love, without sending a mixed message? (As a follower of Christ, shouldn’t I be inclined to prioritize love, empathy, mercy, and compassion above all else? Is there anything in life that does not require taking risks and perhaps getting it wrong?)

Maybe my questions are better posed to a professional counselor or therapist. 

And they will some point, to be sure. 

The more books I read, the more I recognize that we are all engaged in relational struggles. We’re all confused by others; even those we think we know and understand. I think if we're honest, we are sometimes even confused by ourselves. 

We have all felt disappointed, let down, even betrayed by someone important to us. And we have all,  most certainly, held beliefs, opinions and convictions that are at odds with people we dearly love. We must hold ourselves accountable for having also been the ones who caused pain, disappointment, feelings of betrayal another has suffered. 

In one book I recently listened to, the author stressed the necessity of each of us confronting the ways WE have contributed to a breakdown in communication or in a relationship. A past counselor said it to me this way: If one person has to lose and one person has to win, the relationship loses.

Humility is the path I want to aim for. When I veer off that path, I want to correct my course as quickly as I can. 

I have lost friends this year to Covid; friends I did not anticipate losing. I've revisited text messages that turned out to be our last words. But we had no idea at the time. I am so thankful they were words of love and affirmation. They were words that bring comfort instead of additional pain and anguish.

Conflict is going to happen. Debate is not a bad thing. Differences of opinion can facilitate growth. And the absence of conflict is not the equivalent of peace. But more than ever, in these turbulent times, I want to do my best to live out this scripture:

If possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.

Romans 12:18

My word for 2021 is PEACE

I want to have it. I want to bring it. I want to live it... with fresh energy and hope!