Facing 2017

Some folks are looking forward to 2017, determined to take to 2017 like a duck to water.

I am not one of those people. I am looking forward to 2017, like a mother looks forward to taking a sugar-filled toddler onto a long train journey home. Like the mother, after a long arduous 2016, I just want  to rest. I want to get on the train and into my seat and hope my child sleeps. Like 2017, the toddler just wants to jump from seat to seat and ask loads of questions I do not have the answers for, nor the energy to find.  It’s a recipe for a ‘toddler meltdown’ and a long journey.

I may be surprised by 2017. I hope I am surprised. God, please let me be pleasantly surprised!

I do not really want to relive 2016 in this blog, and besides different people experienced the year in different ways. I just want to share a little bit of how I intend to face 2017, in case someone else out there is wondering how they will face 2017 too.

In 2017, with God’s help, I intend:

  • To communicate better.

Disagreement is not a failure. Lack of dialogue is a failure. I am not going to ‘agree to disagree’, but rather I am going to disagree and try to communicate more precisely why I disagree. However, like the Bible says, I don’t want to “bite” or eat anyone (Galatians 5:15). I am not out to destroy anyone. But that doesn’t mean I can’t have a different opinion or offer a different understanding of a situation. I have experiences and intelligence as valid as anyone else’s. What matters is how I express them, and how I value or not value the experiences and intellect of others.

  • To love.

John 13:35 – “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” Jesus said this to his disciples on the night he was arrested, knowing full well they were going to disagree on a lot of stuff once he had gone (see Acts). How they disagreed mattered.

Whenever disagreements come up, I will remember that I love the person I am disagreeing with. I LOVE THE PERSON I AM DISAGREEING WITH. And even in cases when I don’t love the person, I know God does, even if God hates their actions or thoughts at that moment in time. God’s love for me isn’t based on what I say, think or do, so why would His love for anyone else be any different?

Also in Galatians 5, verse 13, we are reminded to use our freedom in Christ not to make ourselves happy, but rather to “serve one another humbly in love”. Love was a big deal to Paul. In 1 Corinthians 13, he devoted a whole chapter to what love should look like, and he wasn’t talking about marriage. Paul was talking how people who are followers of Jesus should act towards each other and everyone else. Without love, whatever we do, is just GONG, GONG, GONG. Pointless.

  • To keep the peace.

Peacekeeping is a tricky one. You can’t do it on your own. It takes folks from all the sides willing to sit down together, to dialogue in love and to want to find a way forward together. For my part, I am committed to finding a path to peace with you and with others. I am committed to honest dialogue that wants hurts and wrongs to be expressed, but also seeks healing and putting the wrongs right. A peace that seeks reconciliation and restoration. “You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one” (John Lennon). According to the Bible, God wants to reconcile all things to God’s self through Jesus (Colossians 1:15-23). That’s the gospel, the good news (v23). In fact, the NIV says, “God has reconciled you” so stay put in Christ – don’t budge an inch from “the hope held out in the gospel” (v22-23).

  • To stand my ground.

You remember in the movie Avatar, when she says, “I see you.” She sees who the bloke is even though his skin has changed, and he is no longer blue but a human. She sees beyond his skin and sees the person he is. We need to do more ‘seeing’ of each other. To see each other as we are, look each other in the eye, and truly see the other person. The only way we can do that is if everyone is honest about who they are and what they stand for – and that includes me. And there are things I refuse to compromise on. I refuse to refer to overtly racist political movements as ‘populism’. Populism may exist in non-racist forms, but when a political movement clearly is racist (I am thinking in particular of Europe here), I am calling it what it is – racism.

Might sound a bit odd to talk of “standing my ground”. I don’t mean this in a this-is-my-view-so-deal-with-it kind of way. Or I-think-this-and-tough-if-you-don’t. I do not mean my-way-or-the-highway. Too often we come to peacetalks, we talk of love, and what we really mean is I have to forget myself and do what the other person wants. I do not think this is healthy or helpful, nor is that true peace negotiations or reconciliation.

2016 saw a lot of disagreements. Some people will carry a lot of hurt from 2016 into 2017. A lot of people were wounded. A lot of hate and anger were unleashed – even in the church. And like an explosive argument in which things were said that can’t be unsaid, we are all left wondering how we can move forward together.

I can’t tell you what to do. I wouldn’t dare try. I can only offer what I hope to do in 2017 – communicate better, love, keep the peace, and stand my ground. With God’s help, I will.

Praying God blesses us all with a way forward together. See you in 2017.

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