Happy New Year!
Hi there! This is Jack talking here…
Yes, 2015 has moved in and he’s brought a lot of things along with him, both good and bad. I don’t know about you, but I was not looking forward to the New Year. Why? I feel compelled to tell you a little bit about my history with the holiday and what God has been teaching me through it in this season.
In the past New Years hasn’t been the best experience for me. Drunken fights, hospitals, heartbreak… Three years ago I spent it with someone who had a psychotic breakdown and threatened me with a knife. The year after that I spent the night alone in an airport, singing traditional Pakistani songs with the janitor. Last year I spent it with the person who threatened me two years before (they were becoming much more stable, thankfully), and this year… well, I was beginning to feel a little bit like the Jews at the first Passover—I would be happy just to make it through the night alive.
It seems that every year has been doomed to get off on the wrong foot. This year, however, things have been different. It started a few weeks ago at a missionary conference in Denver, Colorado (those of you on Facebook may recall that picture of me waving my Seahawks scarf in the airport…). The speaker, Paul Austin, was teaching about the process of pioneering a campus ministry and he made a point that I found very interesting. While pioneering a ministry missionaries often have goals and a vision of what they hope to become their first year. This is good, but as much as you try to teach a person what to expect in campus ministry, they’ll never be prepared. This is because much of ministry is, as they say, “caught, not taught.” Many missionaries crash and burn their first try because they don’t take time to enjoy the process and “catch” the vision of their work. Paul’s simple solution was for missionaries to think of year one as “year zero.” According to this method nothing is off limits and the more you try the better. Did something you try work well? Great! Did it totally crash and burn? Great! It all counts because the most important thing in Year Zero is that you experience and learn. Then you will be prepared for Year 1 where you can focus on growing. What a relief!
As a Christian I’ve come to realize something very similar about Grace. We often step out in faith, or approach things like the new year with certain resolutions, and end up falling flat on our face. Maybe secretly we begin to wonder if God has it out for us, or, if you’re like me, doomed us to begin every year on the wrong foot. We forget that regardless of the good or bad that occurs in our lives his Grace has made it possible for us to live simply for the purpose of loving him, and learning about his love for us. It’s as if we’ve been living in Year Zero all along! And if we focus on this he promises to take care of the rest, and we are free to enjoy the journey.
This year I feel liberated to enjoy all that God has in store for me, knowing that my mission is simple and his Grace is sufficient. I pray that you also catch the spirit of “year zero” as you walk boldly in his Grace through whatever comes. If you want to know how New Years turned out for me check the back!