December 26, 2000
In a poem entitled “Exit,” author Luci Shaw asks these questions: “When you go will you go with a sizzle—a spiteful spitting on a hot plate? . . . when you leave will you leave with a bang—exploding like a far star, kicking your hot cinders in God’s eyes?”
Questions about endings seem to lurk in our minds around the last couple weeks of December. For a while we wondered — how will the U.S. elections finish? Now it is: how will this year finish? What will my family or my financial statement look like? Did I accomplish what I wanted to in this year 2000?
Many people started this millennial year with a list of dreams and many will take time to look at the results. Ending poorly is not on our mind — not for a day, a year, or even our life. We want to finish well, not with a sizzle but with an exclamation mark.
This desire is tied to our huge inner need to feel significant. I want my life to matter. When I come to the end of anything, whether a day, a week, or a year, evaluation seems almost as automatic as resolutions to do better next time.
I used to be big on those New Year’s resolutions too, but that was before discovering how easily I can set myself up for a poor ending. I would fill pages with things I wanted to do but ignored those factors that are out of my control, like the limits of a twenty-four hour day!
About five years ago, I decided to trade my to-do list for a “to-be” list. I want to be like Jesus, partly because I know that will give my life meaning. As Spanish composer and musician Pablo Casals said, “The capacity to care gives life its deepest significance.” That capacity is one part of what it means to be like the Lord.
I’m learning if I have a caring attitude, that is more important than any of the stuff that gets checked off my list. Being kind to people and becoming a more Christlike person has greater significant in that to-do list too; they are done in a meaningful way rather than simply completed.
Another trouble with resolutions is maintaining balance. What do we do about the mistakes of the past? Just forget them? And how do we plan for the future without, as some sage said, “continually expecting the coming of some special hour when our life shall unfold itself in its full significance” and miss the fact that “life is flowing like water through our fingers?”
Certainly yesterday’s choices makes a difference in today’s decisions but Emerson is wrong when he said, “Finish every day and be done with it. You have done what you could. . . . Tomorrow is a new day; begin it well and serenely.” We can begin tomorrow with greater wisdom and serenity if we consider what worked well yesterday and what did not.
By far the most important part of moving into a new year or a new anything is deciding, regardless of what lies before me, that I will obey the Lord, that I will think and act in goodness. When it comes down to it, planning is okay but right now is the only real opportunity to do something significant. It may be a small thing in our eyes but Jesus said just giving someone a cup of cold water in His name would be rewarded. I’m sure He meant that we give it in kindness.
Lord, the year is nearly over and I’m thankful that my sins and stupidities are forgiven. I’m also thankful that You do not waste even that but use them to teach me that I need to depend on You. Thank You for Your presence and Your eternal care. If nothing else, may I be more obedient to You — in all of 2001 of course — but also today, even this very moment.