Cleaning the window doesn’t change the view: still snow, still fence, still wires and tree branches bare but for an enormous hornet’s nest. But it does clear the vision.
That’s how I feel about New Year’s resolutions, too. For me, regrouping at the New Year is less about making a list of goals to eventually fail to achieve, and more about taking a minute (or more than a minute, but let’s be honest, I’ve got tiny children pulling on my legs) to reflect on who I am and where I’m going. What are my hopes and wishes? Do I need to change the trajectory of my life?
Cleaning the windows of my soul these past few weeks, the word that came to me was ABIDE.
I think I need to remain where I am, to sojourn here a while longer.
I need to abide with small town Indiana. You know me, I’ve been moving my whole life. I lived in four states before I was five years old. In the last ten years, I’ve had seven homes, two of them overseas. This staying put is foreign to me, and I get itchy to move on to the next thing. But it’s time to abide.
I need to abide to the end of things. I get excited about things at the beginning. I get passionate and dreamy. But I rarely follow through to the end of projects. I put down the quilt pieces and start planning a gluten-free menu, which I abandon in favor of New York Times chocolate chip cookies, and then I think about how I need to knit a french press cozy. Maybe now it’s time to finish some things, to abide with projects and ideas and see them through.
I want to abide with my kids, being more present when I’m present, and less distracted. I want to abide with my students and friends here in Upland, and with you friends on the blog (yes, I’m sticking with my blog, though still re-thinking some aspects of it all). I want to move a little more slowly through days, through books, through thoughts, abiding with them longer.
I want to continue on in the directions I’ve been traveling this year.
I think it’s time to sojourn here for a spell, here where life looks still, quiet, even boring and monotonous, because I think this is an underground year. Verily, he says to me, unless a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone; but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit. This is underground year, a die to self year.
After all, as NT Wright says in After You Believe, you can’t force changes in character on yourself. They grow in subtle, quiet daily choices:
Character is a slowly forming thing. You can no more force character on someone than you can force a tree to produce fruit when it isn't ready to do so. The person has to choose, again and again, to develop the moral muscles and skills which will shape and form the fully flourishing character.
It’s a strange thing to me, to pick one word for a year, when really you have no idea what the year will bring. Can choosing a word change what the year brings to you? Or change the way you respond to it?
Perhaps I’ll actually find that everything about my life this year will be overturned, and what the word really means for me is that Christ abides, and I abide in him, so I am unmoved.
Abide in me, O Lord, and I in Thee,
From this good hour, oh, leave me nevermore;
Then shall the discord cease, the wound be healed,
The lifelong bleeding of the soul be o’er.
Abide in me; o’ershadow by Thy love
Each half formed purpose and dark thought of sin;
Quench ere it rise each selfish, low desire,
And keep my soul as Thine, calm and divine.
As some rare perfume in a vase of clay,
Pervades it with a fragrance not its own,
So, when Thou dwellest in a mortal soul,
All Heaven’s own sweetness seems around it thrown.
Abide in me; there have been moments blest
When I have heard Thy voice and felt Thy power;
Then evil lost its grasp; and passion, hushed,
Owned the divine enchantment of the hour.
These were but seasons beautiful and rare;
Abide in me, and they shall ever be;
Fulfill at once Thy precept and my prayer,
Come, and abide in me, and I in Thee.-- Harriet Beecher Stowe