As the year draws to a close, it is natural for us to begin reflecting on the year that has past, as well as the new year that is just around the corner. This morning I began writing in my journal about the previous year, wondering as I wrote what God’s perspective on my year would be. As I prayed and read the Scriptures, I think I felt some direction.
As I reflect on 2011, I am reminded of the deep pain that has been part of my story this year. I also reflect with shame how much rebellion and entitlement ransacked my heart (and those around me), compounding the pain of this season. I imagined that God might shake his head in disappointment and shame over my “performance” this past year, wanting to distance himself from me in 2012 and move on to more productive disciples. By grace, I knew this to be wrong, so I sought a fresh image of God’s heart.
I quickly found myself in Nehemiah 9, one of my favorite passages in the Old Testament, describing a covenant renewal ceremony for the exiled and disenfranchised people of God. As they reflect on their past, they make several statements and requests:
- God has been faithful, but I have not; I have acted wickedly (9:33ff)
- Yet he has not forsaken me (and will not) because of his grace and compassion (9:31)
- Lord, remember my sufferings and heal me (9:32)
All of the mess of 2011 is caught up “in Christ” (Eph. 1): all my failures, backslidings, rebellions, as well as the few momentary spurts of obedience. 2011 feels like a great year of sadness, a “year of the old self, of giving in to compulsions to escape from pain, or resentment, entitlement and slothful despair.
The Lord began unpacking more of his perspective on my year by reminding me of the story of the prodigal son (Luke 15). I have wandered, and in many ways, I am still wandering, but the Father waits, hopes, embraces, kisses and restores. Always.
I repent of my addiction to illusions in 2011 and stumble toward Christ in 2012. My soul found a home in these prayers for the upcoming year:
“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. . . . Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit” (Ps 51:10, 12 ESV).
Lord, grant me a broken and contrite heart in 2012 (Ps 51:17).
Teach me to number my days, that I might gain a heart of wisdom (Ps 90:12)
“Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.”
“Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us, and for as many years as we have seen evil” (Ps 90:14-15)
“O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise” (Ps 51:15).
Let me know the reckless love of Christ in every dimension of my life (Eph 3:14-19)
These songs ministered deeply to me as I ruminated on these things:
I feel the gentleness and wide mercy of a Father on me, a scraggly disciple who has spent far too much time away from home. With as much grace as God gives, I return home, hoping that I linger for longer seasons at home in 2012.