Ah, the end of another year! I always enjoy looking ahead to a new year. For me, there is a certain pleasure to be found in getting things ready and in order. We do it every time we pack for a paddle or camping trip, make and shop for a week’s worth of menus, or stock up on necessities (nothing worse than finding out the hard way that you’re out of toilet paper!).
How do we prepare for another year? Usually we don’t to be honest. We shuffle along without looking back or forward, content to use these last vacation days to eat, sleep, and play with loved ones. Still, there is precedent for preparing oneself, for understanding the lay of the land in our heart, mind, and soul. To do that well, we need to study history. In warfare, the best leaders know from history how to confuse the enemy. They know to send out a vanguard to spy out the situation. They draw up plans of attack.
In our own life, the way the past year transpired can be instructive for directing our future steps. The year’s end is a good time to do the hard work of review. I have lately been thinking about the virtues-beautiful concepts like love, honesty, courage, hope, steadfastness, kindness, chastity, charity, humility, temperance, prudence, justice, and diligence to name a few. I have been wrestling with the question: which virtues do I regularly display in my life, and which are weak? If I wasn’t humble before, an honest survey like this will help develop humility, because there is much work to be done in the arenas of the heart, mind, and soul.
Our family cottage in the woods is not winterized, so it sits shuttered all winter, mantled with snow, empty of life except for the mice that squeeze in through the cracks. Each spring, someone takes on the task of making the place habitable. Opening the cottage is a yearly ritual of “getting ready”- airing out the dank, musty rooms, sweeping away dust and cobwebs, washing windows, baiting mousetraps, making beds, turning on the water, and setting wood in the fireplace for the first fire.
I think it’s a good analogy for what we should do at the New Year with our own insides.
Where have we been lazy? What needs airing, sweeping, washing?
How have we been treating others? How can we smooth our roughest edges to be more hospitable, more just, more charitable, more loving? How can we be wiser about finances? About the way we use our time for the greater good instead of our own numbing leisure? It all starts with the virtue of honesty. How honest are you willing to be about your own shortcomings? And, how willing are you to accept the responsibility for growth?
God has the future in hand. We look forward, yet are sometimes too fearful and protective about our lives. Yet Jesus and the angels’ most frequent reassurances were always, “do not be afraid.”
Can we be bold enough to believe God, and to understand that our own shortcomings and sins, when dealt with honestly, become a faith-filled path toward virtuous living? As the ball drops at midnight, listen for the voice of one calling in a wilderness to make way for God in your heart. Be honest with yourself, make plans, and you’ll be surprised what the New Year brings!