Sunday, December 27, 2015
I've had a bad year. Actually, I've had a bad 15 months or so. I could go into the litany of lost jobs, car wrecks, illnesses, family emergencies, and so forth. I won’t, because specifics aren’t important here. Several times over the last few weeks, I've mentioned that I can't wait for 2015 to be over, because it's been a bad year, and hoping that 2016 would be better. If I can just make it to the end of the year, I tell myself, everything will get better next year.
Then the realist (some would call it the 'cynic') in me speaks up. "You can't know what's going to happen next year," it says. "You thought this year was bad? It can get worse."
I'm forced to admit that my realistic side is correct. It can certainly get worse. I've had enough stuff go on just in the last few weeks that brought that sharply into focus. It can always get worse.
Then, a week or two ago, while listening to our preacher give his lesson, something struck me. It pierced me to the core.
I have spent the last 15 months of my life resenting things that happened to me. Oh, I've put on a happy face, and certainly not everything that has happened in those months has been bad, but I have been letting the bad set the tone of my life. Everything seemed to come back to the bad things.
I have been using those bad things as a shield against personal responsibility. I'll pause for some of you to digest the irony of that statement; I'm a huge fan of personal responsibility. As it turns out, I'm not quite as huge a fan of it as I thought.
Not that I've been irresponsible in any of my temporal or social duties. I go to work, I hang out with friends, I try to be a good husband and father. My bills get paid, dishes get washed, and my house at least does not look like a disaster area. Usually.
But I have not taken personal responsibility for my eternal duties. Work is important for a variety of reasons. Being a good friend, husband and father are incredibly important. Being a humble, joyful, and above all *thankful* follower of Christ is much more important. I have failed in all of those.
I can wax eloquent on how God never gives us a command to "feel," but then when it comes time to choose, I never seem to. So today - now - I will choose joy. I will choose humility. I will choose thankfulness.
I will not resent the jobs lost (one for me, and one for my wife). I will thank God for the opportunities presented – a new job at better pay with better hours for me, and the chance to be a stay-at-home mom for my wife. I will not resent the car wrecks; I will thank God that no one was seriously injured, and that our insurance has handled things relatively smoothly. I will not resent the illnesses; I will thank God for our health, and that none of those illnesses turned critical (and they could have).
Here I can only repeat the prayer in the parable, and hope like the character I too “go away justified.”
“Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.”