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"New Year's resolutions? They're a waste of time! They'll all be broken before the end of January so why bother?" "Yeah, there's not much point unless you're going to resolve to eat more chocolate or watch more television!" The comments hung in the air as the two laughing women hurried past me, losing themselves in the lunchtime crowd. Later that day a young friend of mine would confide in me that she intended this year to make a point of saying what she really thought instead of fudging answers in difficult situations as had been her habit. "It's time I grew up," she said. "I haven't really been being honest."
o my mind, observing the New Year is not such a silly idea. If life were one continuous timeline, not sectioned off into years, months and days, how lost we might become. But as it is, every 365 days we have the opportunity to step aside from the hurley-burley for a moment, to stop, and to consider new possibilities. Perhaps this year I will reprioritise so there is more time for the family. Maybe it would be better to take a new approach to that problem which threatened to overwhelm me last year. This will be a better year, we promise ourselves. The start of a new year is a time of revisioning, a time of rekindling hope, a time of anticipation.
Long lost cousins sent a card at Christmas, which epitomised for me the sense of exciting 'possibilities' tied up with the beginning of a new year. It featured a Gary Larsen cartoon:
Santa stands staring into his open wardrobe wearing green spotted boxer shorts, a white singlet and crumpled socks trimmed in red. A gaping sack stuffed full of presents lies on the floor at his feet.
Before him, seven fur-trimmed Santa suits hang neatly on a rail, shiny black boots sit in pairs on the floor beneath them and a row of Santa hats, each sporting a fluffy white rim and a nodding white pompom, is lined up on the shelf above. All the suits and hats are the traditional red except, that is, for the middle suit and the middle hat, both of which are electric blue. "Maybe this year . . ." muses Santa.
But as the new year unfolds it is not always exciting prospects which are in the forefront of our minds. The old year might have been a time of sickness; there may have been a death, financial difficulties or a falling out with someone. Unfinished business that marred the previous year may now be threatening to spill over into the new one.
About this time last year I remember sitting on the stairs in the dark one night quite overwhelmed by the feeling of unsettledness as I anticipated yet another week of tradespeople swarming through the house attending to all those little problems that become apparent once you move into a new building and discover that the ( . . . . fill in the gap) doesn't work properly. We had already struggled with several months of this during the previous year: a skylight leaked, the shower had hot water but no cold, a builder had cracked the bath, flashing was missing from a window, water from the toilet cistern dripped onto the floor, the fireplace had been wrongly installed, the subfloor was faulty and so the tiles needed pulling up and relaying . . . . On and on it seemed to go and I wondered if I would ever be able to feel that my home was a haven, or if instead I would be waiting for it to 'bite' me each time I walked in the door.
Such problems seem so trivial in the light of the devastation tsunami victims are dealing with, but nonetheless I learned a lesson that night on the stairs.
As I sat there praying and trying to come to terms with it all, it was as if I saw God gathering up my concerns and worries like so many strands in his hands and, rather than making them disappear, he was weaving them together to make something new. I sensed that no problem was too complicated to be handled in this way; that God does not do 'patch up' jobs but creates something out of brokenness which is better than the sum of the pieces -- that this is, in fact, how God operates in the world: he does not 'magic away' the bad times but sits with us in the midst of them, weaving goodness out of despair. Whatever the pieces may be -- broken dreams, damaged people, events that refuse to come into line as they should -- God is sitting in the middle, gathering together the fragments and refashioning them, that they might serve a useful purpose.
No matter what the new year may bring, I take courage from the fact that God is in the business of new beginnings -- and 'weaving goodness' is his specialty.