What a year!

For many of us, it is so easy to forget that suffering, injustice, and inconvenience has historically been a way of life, and still is, in many corners of society around the world. Political and social unrest, violence and corruption, rampant injustice without recourse, hunger and strife, lives lived in fear – with little hope or value…  Such were the conditions for the common man under the “civilized” rule of Augustus Caesar, when the one called Jesus Christ was born.

As a person of faith, I am humbled that the God I worship did not come into controlled and orderly circumstances. Instead, He was born into messy, frightening, unjust, and out of control conditions – much like life today. What a revelation to know that “messes” are okay! Unpleasant and painful, yes, but okay. There is peace in letting go of our expectations of what we think “normal” looks like and embracing our “humanness” – just as Christ did. There is freedom in emulating His response to these circumstances and not going with the status quo. Emmanuel, God with us; God with us in the pain of our humanity, as well as in our rejoicing.

These reflections emerged as I processed the challenges in our family’s journey these past couple of years. Even as we grieve the devastation and losses so many of us have faced lately, we are grateful for SO much – life, health, family, relationships – and, with these, the vulnerability that brings ‘forced’ growth.

We hope these words by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, priest, scientist, theologian, teacher, and philosopher, resonate with you as it did with us. They are counterintuitive, but life giving in wisdom:

Above all, trust in the slow work of God. We are quite naturally impatient in everything to reach the end without delay. We should like to skip the intermediate stages. We are impatient of being on the way to something unknown, something new. And yet, it is the law of progress that it is made by passing through some stages of instability – and that it takes a very long time.

And so I think it is with you; your ideas mature gradually – let them grow, let them shape themselves, without undue haste. Don’t try to force them on, as though you could be today what time will make of you tomorrow.

Only God could say what this new spirit gradually forming within you will be. Give our Lord the benefit of believing that his hand is leading you. And accept the anxiety of feeling yourself in suspense and incomplete.

My prayer is that your new year may be rich in authentic relationships with God and others. May you and your loved ones be surprised by joy amid the messes of life!

“Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you, I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.” Isaiah 41:10 (NLT)