The New Year wears hope like a fragrance. The scent, tender, young, sweet, carries in on the wind, and carries me.
So I watch it come, this first day of the first month of a brand new year, breaking over the horizon, breaking up through our jaded hopelessness. Just on the rim of our clean farm fields of white, a new time, fresh hope, dawns. Do these fields of unspoiled winter await new tracks, like an unfurled year awaiting new ways of being? Pristine and blue in morning light, this snow gives me pause. Before embarking into the pregnant hope of 2008, I think: which way will I step? What will be the path I choose across this stretching expanse of time?
Tracks can only be made once.
And then I catch it. A stench.
That decaying rank that I know all too well: malodorous, rotten fear. Fear that I am impotent of change, that I am doomed to this body of death, that new ways can’t be my ways. What if I will always be this way… (fill in the blank with fear of personal choice: self-centered, overweight, uneducated, unmotivated, debt-ridden, angry, anxious, apathetic, unfulfilled…) What if our family, this marriage, these children, stagnate, fester, languish? What if all tomorrows are just more of all our yesterdays, never learning the lessons that were meant to be learned?
And this, this mingling aroma of sweet hope and putrid fear, this is where I goad myself onward, each step fuelled with the prodding kick, “I simply must try harder.” Try harder to order my life: more organizing, more scheduling, more managing. Try harder to educate our children better: read more, create more, experience more. Try harder to be a heart after His: pray more, sing more, memorize more. Try harder to tramp good tracks.
I remember from yesterday (and the string of days behind it) with its muddied mess of imprints: trying harder only results in harder trials. Self-striving nurtures self-hatred. Toiling in the flesh produces foiling in the soul. Looking back on the trail tromped through other years, I have eyes to see: to forge new tracks one needs more than simply sheer effort, gritty determination. Yes. But what then?
As the premier day of the newborn year stretches, I watch the wind lift, gently lull, the branches of the spruce trees that tower outside my window. I cannot see the wind, where she comes from, where she goes, but I watch a thin veil of snow, blowing in with her, going off with her.
And the wind whispers, rustles, rumors from Home: one needs wind’s hope, His Spirit. For this wind brings falling flakes, blanketing muddled tracks. Grace, His Spirit, covers, fills our empty spots, intercedes. His mercies fall new every morning. Fear, its stench, ebbs in the knowing: every day, we begin again. We remain, thankfully, always beginners. Each dawn pulls back the blinds on, always, day one.
How then to make tracks just through this Day One? How to set out into the New Year?
- Set back to the Wind
Set back to the wind, and let His Spirit gently move you forward. Let His Spirit carry, when feet are too weak to carry on. I abruptly arrest myself with every “I must try harder.” And gently remind to form new words, utter new prayers that transport to new places: “Spirit, fill more of me. Lift me, Spirit.” Set out into New Year’s hope knowing, “It is the Spirit who gives life, the flesh profits nothing (Jn 6:36)…Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord Almighty (Zech. 4:6).” Set back to His Wind, and let Him fill your sail, your life.
- Set jaw
Set back to the wind and set jaw to persevere. For we add to our faith, perseverance. The day will be long, the way deep. We will grow weary, discouraged, tempted to turn back to familiar, rutted paths. But set hand to the plow and refuse to turn back. For, really, what can go awry? The Spirit’s got your back. So set jaw—persevere, be patient, embrace long processes– and let the wind blow.
- Set times
Set, fixed, times to make certain tracks each day allows for the wind to move us, for inspiration to surprise us. Sporadic creativity, intermittent, random commitment, generally fails to forge a steady trail. If we pursue new, desired paths simply when we can get around to it, too often the darkening sky of the urgent distracts us, detours us. Progress is born out of rhythm, routine, regularity….set times. It is how the saints met God: Daniel prayed three times a day facing Jerusalem (Daniel 6:10), the psalmist purposed to praise seven times a day, the early disciples prayed at fixed hours, 9 am in the upper room, (Acts 2:15),on the roof for noon prayers (Acts 10:9), on the way to temple for 3 pm prayers (Acts 3:1). If set times are the necessary catalysts for spiritual growth, so are set times critically compelling elements for life growth. With back set to the wind, and jaw set, set habitual times to pioneer new habits. Uncertain times will lead to certain failure.
- Set sights
Embark daily with a keen focus on the trail markers, on the intermediate goals that line the way. Be it daily markers of an hour of reading aloud to thirsty young minds, fifteen minutes in prayer, twenty minutes invested into a relationship, intermediate rest stations dot the path of our long, arduous journey. Set goals along the way, and fix your sights on the these midway markers: one pound shed this week, 5 chapters read, one date night with a child. Set sights close… “By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I am not turning back” (Phil 3:13 MSG). Set eye on the intermediary goals along the way, breaking the trek into achievable segments—and be off and running!
- Set Out
Simply, finally, take the first step. Again and again. The wind, hope on its wings, sweeps each new day clean before us, and sweeps over our tracks from yesterday, filling with grace. Quell fear. Keep setting out. “Jesus said, “No procrastination. No backward looks. You can’t put God’s kingdom off till tomorrow. Seize the day” (Luke 9:62 MSG). Seize the day! Set out, fixing “attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out!” (Ro. 1:12 MSG). Changed from the inside out. Set jaw, set times, set sights, set back to the wind…and unfold arms, like wings extending, feeling that change coming through.
A New Year blows in and we feel that Spirit wind catch, lift.
We are set to Soar. Set to Soar.
©2008, Ann Voskamp