This year my new year is starting on 1st February – at least as far as resolutions about losing weight and going to the gym are concerned! I wasn’t feeling very positive at actual New Year so here’s to another new beginning: 3 cheers for the month beginning with F which this year in our house stands for Focus, Frugality and Fasting. Hmmm, could be painful! Nevertheless, something has to be done: all discipline is painful at the time, but afterwards it enables one to get back into one’s jeans comfortably. I will take over where all those discarded January resolutions are now being left behind – and at least the gym should be empty again!
A holiday is always a good chance to step back out of the routine and review life’s journey, to look back and look forward – well, look back anyway. Forward is a bit more difficult at the moment, apart from a few short-term goals and vague plans for the next holiday so that we have something to keep us going… But this looking back is habitual with me – see Autumn Equinox for example 🙂
The ‘co-incidence’ that we left the country on 20th January – the date last year when Sam went into hospital for his biopsy and shunt operation – and we flew home again on 29th January – the day we were told his cancer diagnosis – have made this holiday’s ‘annual review’ especially poignant. Its almost impossible to remember the time before we knew the awful truth, but we had already been suffering in anxiety and uncertainty for 10 months as the pressure in Sam’s head grew. Here’s In Your Honour a piece that I wrote the night before his operation, when I was facing down my fears in the small hours. It was eventually posted on the Stories from the Street site as a tribute on 30th January, after we had been told what we were facing.
This has been a profound year in our lives – deep, challenging, exhausting, painful and wonderful. In many ways I couldn’t imagine it any other way; in many ways we wouldn’t have had it any other way because of the treasure we have found in the darkness (Isaiah 45v3). I feel the pain of it, but I can only be grateful. ‘This far has the Lord helped us’ – yet again (1 Samuel 7v14).
“So teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom” Psalm 90v12
I’m always quoting this verse to back up my love of numbers and dates (eg 20:20 vision) I had to laugh when I logged back onto my blog on return home to see the stats over the past month. On 1st January I’d had the highest number of hits since I started blogging and on 29th I had the lowest – NONE. Of course, that was because I haven’t been writing for 10 days and I know very well that Its not a competition! I don’t really think that’s what it means by ‘numbering my days’ – and yet production, output, success and popularity are what matter to so many people. The marked decline down to the 29th, and the fact of it being the 29th and only the 29th that that happened, was another pointer to me, a reminder, a marker – of grace alone that has carried us through and the futility of measuring life by the world’s standards.
While away I read a book of reflections on suffering and evil by a Christian theologian – a very helpful and thorough look at the whole teaching of Scripture. Many parts of the church have not had a balanced view of what the Bible actually says, leaning too far toward expectation of healing and miracles, focussing on the supernatural, forgetting the sufferings of the prophets and saints and the way of the cross we are called to follow. “Our framework has not been large enough… a theology of healing and power encounter without a theology of suffering…the triumph of the kingdom when sickness is overthrown, without seeing the triumph of the kingdom when people are transformed in the midst of sickness” (D.A Carson, ‘How Long, O Lord?’ p110). There is a lot more to draw out of this and I will undoubtedly return to it at another time.
His point about this ‘verse of mine’ is that in the context of Psalm 90 Moses is specifically talking about us being aware of the short span of our lives:
‘Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations. Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the whole world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God. You turn people back to dust, saying, “Return to dust, you mortals.” A thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night. Yet you sweep people away in the sleep of death— they are like the new grass of the morning: In the morning it springs up new, but by evening it is dry and withered. We are consumed by your anger and terrified by your indignation. You have set our iniquities before you, our secret sins in the light of your presence. All our days pass away under your wrath; we finish our years with a moan. Our days may come to seventy years, or eighty, if our strength endures; yet the best of them are but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away. If only we knew the power of your anger! Your wrath is as great as the fear that is your due. Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.‘ Psalm 90v1-12
This evaluation exercise is not just a game. We are mortal – we have little time on this earth. In God’s sight the sentence of death is His just judgment on the rebellion and pride of man – all our sin. The gift of our salvation is awesome – the love He has shown, the call to follow His Son…
I for one want to take this seriously, take stock, not waste time – be glad of the journey so far and set my face to the road ahead to accomplish His purposes – right choices and paths of righteousness and peace. So here’s to F for February and sowing where I want to go for the next phase of our journey. The rest of Moses psalm is the best possible prayer:
‘Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days. Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us, for as many years as we have seen trouble. May your deeds be shown to your servants, your splendour to their children. May the favour of the Lord our God rest on us; establish the work of our hands for us— yes, establish the work of our hands’. Psalm 90v14-17
I’m off to the gym now!