Like many elementary schools, the one my daughter attends has a school t-shirt for sale as a way of drumming up school spirit. Each year the t-shirt is designed by students who are invited to submit ideas and drawings. This year’s design was a combined effort – a compilation of a few different submissions including one by my daughter. Clare’s contribution was a pair of glasses capturing the year and the play on words about having 20/20 vision for the future.
I have read articles from various writers, all of whom refer to focus or vision or clarity as this new year begins. One popular saying reads, “2019: Thanks for the lessons, 2020: Let’s do this!” Another, “In 2020 my vision will be clear.” And the silly, “The year 2020 is going to be filled with so many puns about perfect vision…I can’t wait to SEE them all.”
But at the start of this year I worry about my ability to have good vision for the future. If anything, I live with a greater sense of confusion and a lack of clarity. I think of the future and I feel pain and sadness, worry and fear. As a denomination, we have been looking towards what General Conference 2020 holds and hear recent news about a group of leaders offering a plan for separation. You can read that press release here.
As I write this, I am still processing the news and have not yet read through the full report. It is clear that some secular news outlets have added to confusion by making the assumption that this agreement is a certain outcome. We know only General Conference can make such a decision. We also know that there are a wide range of responses to this recent news. Many have indicated that they are sad but hopeful. Yet others express suspicion and frustration about who was and who wasn’t in the room when the negotiations were taking place. In the midst of turmoil in the church, the world beyond the walls of our churches is reeling with its own pain. Following the U.S. assassination of a top Iranian general, we worry about what might be next and fear it will only lead to more violence.
Yes, the year ahead holds a mixture of hope and worry for most of us.
I recently heard about the release of never before published lectures by Henri Nouwen. I heard the editor Gabrielle Earnshaw interviewed and was immediately intrigued. When I learned the lectures had been compiled in a book entitled, Following Jesus: Finding Our Way Home in an Age of Anxiety, I knew I had to get the book. It wasn’t until I began reading that I realized Nouwen gave the lectures during one of the lowest and darkest seasons of his life, adding even more beauty and depth to the vulnerability and humility we find in his writings. The lectures were given in the 1980’s, but the words are just as relevant now as they were then. The reading was good company for the latter days of December, as I reflected on my own regrets and perceived failures from the past year and as I worried about all the new year might bring. Nouwen taught me once again the lessons I need to hear over and over again: that following Jesus means moving toward others, that fear pulls us away from the present, that letting go often leads to more life, that love is our calling, and that our home is in God.
As the weeks of 2020 begin to unfold, I am trying to let go of my worries about what will and what won’t happen. I am longing to be fully attentive to each day as it presents itself. And I pray I will lead with love.
Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes. – Matthew 6:34
We have to learn to live fully in the present, because God is always the God of now, of here. The day in which we live is the day of the Lord. – Henri Nouwen