New Year's Eve always ushers in fresh starts: the adverts are already rampant, ready to tap into our resolutions to lose weight, find love and generally live better lives than the last 12 months have allowed us to. Even if the passing year has treated us well, there is often still something attractive about the opportunity to transition into a whole 52 weeks of unknown. Attractive, and perhaps a little unsettling.
Going through photos on my phone, I found this snapshot I sent my sister in the middle of her emigration saga. At the time we were talking about all the things left on her long to-do list, the skies darkened and a spectacularly clear arc of colour emerged. We read the signs. The bible would have us remember a powerful, promise-keeping God whenever we see rainbows. The rainbow reassured both of us.
Now, over two months on, I am on the edge of 2013 whilst - on the other side of the world - she has already celebrated the arrival of a happy new year. She has moved on. Now, in only a matter of days, the flat I took the photo in will no longer be my home. I am moving on, too. Some people seem almost scandalised by the supposed ease with which we are letting each other go. It isn't easy. It is necessary.
We are people of faith: "[faith is] confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see" (Hebrews 11v1).
We are people of the Spirit: "the wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit" (John 3v8).
We are people who move when we see God move and pause when He pauses - like the Israelites in the Old Testament following the pillar of cloud and fire across the desert. "The steps of the righteous are ordered by the LORD..." (Psalm 37v23). Sometimes those steps take us beyond the boundaries we would choose for ourselves. But never beyond God's care.
And in all the transitioning and change, love lets go. It's woven into the very fabric of our faith: "God so loved the world that He gave His Son..." I love the undeniable wisdom in the poem 'On Children' from The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran - the way it speaks of releasing children/people to be who they are and where they need to be. It's fear and insecurity that try to keep hold of people, places, the past. Love gives us freedom: the grace to engage with the present, and the confidence to face the future.
"This is what the LORD says
- he who made a way through the sea, a path through the mighty waters -
'Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland."
(Isaiah 43v16, 18-19)
Happy New Year!