Blessed “List Week”!
List Week arrives at the end of the year. By compiling and sharing our top ten list (or 20 or 100 or whatever number) of this or that, we attempt some kind of closure to the calendar year.
Like it or not, List Week inundates us with someone’s (or some entity’s) list of the best or worst or most or funniest of the year coming to an end:
Books, songs, football plays (“Did you see that catch?”), grossing moves (as opposed to gross movies, though there could be a list), celebrity beach bodies, car models, phone apps, sermons (“That one about grace…”), newsworthy moments, political quotes, beautiful people, influential people, powerful people, and so on. (Not to be mean, but I am somewhat disheartened by the certainty that the unseemly behaviors of certain politicians and celebrities will generate multiple lists.)
I am heartened that Jesus Christ does not appear interested in an annual (or millennial, for that matter) Top Ten list of disciples, but instead pronounces that “the last shall be first” and points to the “least of these.” Whatever lists Jesus makes have a different set of criteria.
Have I followed the Lord and his Word faithfully in the year of our Lord 2013?
Since the Christmas light show, soundtrack, and worship are behind us, I am joining the long line of listers. Here are “Seven Lessons That 2013 Taught (or Re-taught) Me.” (I may have learned more than seven things this year, but brevity makes my list of All-time Advisable Communication Practices.)
1. “Do not expect to be applauded for making a difficult decision, especially if it’s the right decision. Still, most will be relieved you made it.” In our current culture, exercising responsible leadership guarantees resistance of some degree. Ask any leader.
2. “The heart does not like to be messed with.” So said my cardiac surgeon a few months after mid-year open-heart surgery to replace a defective (since birth) aortic valve. Obviously, this lesson applies to cardiac and emotional conditions. I am thankful for all the heart healing gifts I have received. On the other hand…
3. “Never expect a tonic from a toxic person.” Years of pastoral counseling and care training, family systems study, and pastoral experience have provided numerous and constant reminders of this sad truth: Hurt people often hurt people. To paraphrase an old saying: Some folks give peace wherever they go, some give peace WHENEVER they go. Sometimes, the best we can do is love them from a distance.
4. “You are more loved than you know.” Toxic people and situations can demand and dominate our thoughts and time (see above), tempting us to forget the gracious and giving God and people who surround us. What an audacious and accurate statement: Nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:39). My community of faith is immersed in this joyful truth.
5. “God creates and redeems with reliable unpredictability.” My favorite quote this year comes from an article in The Christian Century by Daniel Harrell. This affirmation provokes with a fresh restatement of the old “God’s timing” adages. God’s mysterious providence is not the same as chaos!
6. “Keep your friends close and your mother-in-law closer.” (My wife suggested this one with a smile.) By the grace of God, I married well — “You outkicked your coverage,” one football coach always reminds me of my wife. My widowed mother-in-law moving closer to us (less than 5 minutes away) has drawn us closer and deepened my relationship with her daughter.
7. “The word of God is living and active.” Speaking for myself, 2013 has been one hellacious year of sublime serendipity. What has God been trying to teach me? More than once this year, as in previous ones, when someone has commented on a sermon, I found myself admitting, “I was preaching to myself today.”
What about your most faithful/challenging moments of Christian discipleship in the past year? What lessons have you learned in the Year of our Lord 2013?