Yes, it’s a new year. 2008 has passed into the history books, and historians will have a field day putting their whys and hows upon the year’s events. So much has already been discussed about the election, the economy, and all the ups and downs of the world that it seems pretty pedestrian to put my own spin on it. But faithful as I am to the study of my own opinion, I must say at least a few words regarding the past year.
While many have termed 2008 the year of “new beginnings”, due to the biblical significance of the number 8, I see it as the year of the reality check. The year where governments, banks and families alike realized that you can’t avoid the consequences of living like there’s no tomorrow when tomorrow arrives. Of course, blame can be widely and deservedly dispersed to all kinds of entities, but it comes back to the individual. Were we following the principle of the proverb of the ant, storing up goods in plenty in preparation for winters to come, or following the example of Joseph in Egypt, saving an entire nation from starvation by recognizing the natural cycle of feast to famine? Or did we get caught up in the “irrational exuberance”, as Greenspan termed it long before the housing bubble burst? As I read in a great entry by Andy Crouch, this may be the best thing that happened to the US in a long time. Not because we stop buying SUVs in a vain attempt at saving the planet by restricting our individual choices, or because we begin artificially dampening our own economic engine, but simply because we begin to remember the lessons of the last great generation to survive a great crisis – the WWII generation that rose from depression and world war to form the basis of our culture of hard work, sacrifice, and dedication. Ideals that appeared antiquated and out of touch are no longer seen as such. Any return to common sense principles is a good thing. Only we decide how low we must slide before coming back to ourselves, as the prodigal son realized.
As for my family, we also are facing our own 2009 reality check. Schooling still looms as priority number one, as our kids struggle with their individual subjects – the oldest and youngest in math, the middle child with writing and language arts. Homeschooling remains the choice of greatest potential benefit, but also the greatest fear of missed opportunity. The fundamentals of the Paul economy are not super strong, and my wife and I must measure our commitment to preparing for a future move versus paying down debt and making a real change in our cash flow. Ministry remains a blessing and a burden, as I enter a phase of trying to reform an entrenched culture of entitlement in our music ministry. None of these areas carry the sense of imminent satisfaction on the horizon. However, even in this extended transition, we must be thankful that we are able to see where we stand, because without the clarity of reality, we would simply spin into the abyss of blissful ignorance, followed by abject failure and misery (i.e., the American economy). As a father, I recognize more than ever that it is my job to see the “whole truth, and nothing but the truth.” I’m the one accountable for making sure we are prepared for the rainy days, and if we are caught without the umbrella, I have to take off the coat and shield my family first. It’s not fun to be the party pooper, to say no to the big party or the night out with my wife in the most expensive restaurant, but it’s the job I signed up for and the one I’m responsible to do. The reward is not the immediate gratification of hugs around my legs or kisses on the cheek, but it’s the future days of graduation walks and worry free vacations that I must look forward to in days like these.
Personally, I begin this year along with our church in a time of fasting and prayer. One of my sacrifices may seem small, but it’s a major one for me. Last year Twitter became a major source of release and enjoyment for me, as I connected with great people across the country. But the things I need from God outweigh the joy I find in the electronic chronicling of my daily walk, so I have given it up for the month. Hopefully, as I rechannel my ruminations to this blog, I’ll sharpen my desire for consistent communication with my heavenly Father, as well as my blogging (one blogger called Twitter the “crack of the blogoshpere”, and I can attest to its addicting properties). After all, if I checked in with God as often as I checked in with Twitter, my spiritual walk would be much stronger. God can do way more with a 140 characters anyway. I do hope any of my followers will check in on me here and encourage me as I move through the month of reconnection and dedication.
So to all, may a blessed 2009 be yours. Don’t be afraid of the challenge of reality, embrace it, and give thanks for it.The strength of life is built in the struggles of life. We all have much more than 99% of the world, but gratefulness is a characteristic we can never have enough of.
Looking unto the hills,