“We all have opportunities to turn our lives around. Tomorrow does not have to be the same as yesterday; as long as you can witness the newness of another day, you can transform your life and walk a new path.”
DRAW A LINE IN THE SAND TO EXPERIENCE FULFILMENT IN 2013
Reflecting on past mistakes can prevent us from living a fulfilled life. Dionne Gravesande writes that, to enjoy 2013, we should draw a line in the sand, leave our failings behind, and be hopeful about the future.
It seems each time I come around to this time of year, I hear myself repeating the question, ‘Where did the year go?’ It was just a few months ago that the days were longer and somewhat warmer
. But, as we turn our sights to the New Year, now is a good time to pause and reflect on our spiritual wellbeing, and examine what we take forward in 2013.
Christmas is a special season for Christians. It’s a time where we remember the ancient Bethlehem story of God’s redeeming plan for humankind, wrapped up in the birth of the Baby Jesus. And we retell the story of how ‘Love came down’ and lived amongst us. Jesus embodied, and continues to be, an everlasting hope for you and me. Not only can we make sense of this life and flourish within it, but others around us can also find life and fulfilment, too.
Let us pause for thought. Over the past twelve months, it is all too easy to focus on the things that caused us to stumble or that stopped us in our tracks. For example, a young man I was recently working with felt absolutely stuck in his life. Racked with a memory that has tormented his life thus far, he was severely judged by others, causing him to judge himself very harshly which, in turn, led to several years of self-harm. The picture he has of himself today is very different to the picture his friends and family have. Beset with a lack of confidence and internal pain, it will be an uphill struggle for him to believe a future of love and wellbeing is possible. Just how easy is it to draw a line in the sand and move forward?
For Christians, a good point of reference can be found in John 8:1-11, where the woman caught in adultery is brought before Jesus. Instead of judgment, the woman finds forgiveness, and instead of death, the woman is given life – not just life in the shadows, but a chance to start afresh.
It seems the dominant culture at work in today’s society is the judgmental voice that’s ready to point out an individual’s shortcoming and wrongdoing, often forgetting that at some level we all have to deal with our shortcomings – none of us has achieved perfection. I am not condoning bad behaviour or criminality, but I am saying Christians need and should exercise patience and love with others – particularly those who have personal struggles – and should steer clear from getting swept up with the crowds and with mob mentality, which cause harm and distress.
Should you find yourself relating to the adulterous woman in John’s Gospel, remember the actions of Jesus as He wrote His message in the sand to the crowd who were demanding death. He reminded them that their own hands were not clean, and that they had their own sins to deal with. Christ leaves that same message with us who’ve made mistakes, and who feel that we can’t move forward from them. He does not condemn us to death, but encourages us to seek a new path and start doing the right thing. It is more than coincidence that, in His parables and teachings, Jesus always reached out to those whom the world excluded or counted as valueless: women, foreigners, prostitutes, thieves, publicans, the sick, the mentally-deranged and the poor. He held them up as being closer to the Kingdom than those who were deemed righteous and respectable. His was a real message of inclusion.
We all have opportunities to turn our lives around. Tomorrow does not have to be the same as yesterday; as long as you can witness the newness of another day, you can transform your life and walk a new path. The change begins in your consciousness; manifests itself in your character, and is demonstrated by your actions. You will need courage and determination to succeed. So, if you need help to start over, don’t let fear stop you from asking. If you need support, seek it out from a family member, church family, or services set up to support individuals and families.
As Christians, we have deep wells to draw upon to ‘keep on keeping on’ and, speaking as a Pentecostal, the place of songs and worship are important in maintaining faith and hope. Here I agree with theologian Kosuke Koyama, who asked, ‘Is hope related to the future?’ The answer is an overwhelming Yes! But even more, it is related to love. Hope is not a time story, it’s a love story. The Gospel dares to place love above time. All the healing stories of the Gospel, and ultimately the confession of the faith that ‘on the third day He rose from the dead’, point to this awesome truth. Hope is as impassioned by love, as is every healing work and action of Jesus. What gives hope is not time, but the power of love.
Look forward to 2013 with hope in your heart, and with the determination to start anew. And do whatever you need to kick-start that change – including drawing that line in the sand.
Dionne Gravesande is Head of Church and Young People’s Relationships at Christian Aid