Looking Back, Looking Forward

Goodbye, 2021. It’s been quite a year, different of course from its predecessor, yet similar. COVID was still with us, and politics were just as mixed. Churches and businesses continued closed, replaced by online services, and masks became political statements while people queued up for vaccines. Many still died, just as street violence took its toll. We lost friends and family members, celebrities, and people we needed to help us cope with everything we were and still are facing. As Charles Dickens put it in the opening to his classic A Tale of Two Cities, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” Somehow it always seems to apply to each year we go through.

Today we begin 2022, a new year offering better things and better times. We start every year with hope, and sometimes we manage to keep that hope going until, like resolutions, we find it is too hard to maintain. As John Bunyan spoke of in Pilgrim’s Progress, we find ourselves again in a slough of despond.  

We make resolutions, intents to improve our lives, health, financial standing, and children’s futures. We join a gym and make time to go regularly for a few weeks or months. But sooner or later, life gets in the way, and we don’t have the time to exercise. A morning’s jog becomes a dash from the front door to the car door. We vow to attend church but, quite often, weekends seem to get shorter, the yard still needs mowing, the kids have sports or enrichment activities to go to, and we just have to get in a game of golf to “relax.” 

One thing about Jesus was that he didn’t make resolutions. He set himself to live a course of life and kept to it. He had a job to do, and he was determined to do it the way God wanted him to. He had to teach this course of life to others and encourage them to attempt to live it. He knew that they wouldn’t always succeed, but they needed to try. They would fall down from time to time, but they needed to get up and try again. 

This year, we need to start again to try to live more healthily, do more good, love our neighbors, speak more truth, be more honest and transparent. Most of all, maybe we can try to listen to God more, pray more, and find time to help others.  

God, Jesus, and the Spirit are waiting for us to do the work we were told to do. The world needs help to heal the wounds people have inflicted upon her for generations. People need help to live more safely and securely, and they need food and decent living conditions. Children need safe places to learn and to play. So many need medical care and social care as well. We need to do less “Me first!” and more “How can I help?”

May God bless all of us with a year that brings us peace, joy, and love. And may we do our parts to be God’s hands on earth to help bring that about.

Image: Happy New Year, Postcard #300 printed in Germany. Author: Frances Brundage (1910). Found at Wikimedia Commons. 

Linda Ryan is a co-mentor for an Education for Ministry group, an avid reader, lover of Baroque and Renaissance music, and retired. She keeps the blog Jericho’s Daughter. She lives with her three cats near Phoenix, Arizona.

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