There are multiple paths from which to choose in life. Each day we make choices which way we are going to go. Which one of us have not, at one time or another, willingly chosen the road we know is wrong for us? Who among us has not found ourselves in places we regret?
I think it’s a good reminder on New Year’s Eve, as we all consider where we’ve been, where we are, and where we’re going. No matter where this day finds us and no matter how lost we might be (as the prodigal son discovered) it is never too late to turn and head back home.
“Slow down. Take a deep breath. What’s the hurry? Why wear yourself out? Just what are you after anyway?“Jeremiah 2:25a (MSG)
Slow down. Take a deep breath.
I needed to read those words this morning. Despite the fact that the holidays are supposed to be a time of rest and peace, I feel stretched out. Sometimes the holidays feel like a flurry of activity that empty the tank instead of fill it.
Why wear yourself out? Just what are you after anyway?
That’s really the question, isn’t it? What am I after? I put life on auto-pilot. I set the cruise control. I go through the same motions the same way with the same results.
The eve of a new year approaches and I find my spirit looking forward, looking back. I find myself asking what I am after.
Another Christmas has come and gone. Here’s a quick recap of this year’s celebrations.
Wendy and I flew to Denver on Dec 22nd. Wendy’s sister bought a house there this past year so her family decided to meet there for Christmas. We spent Wednesday through Friday there with plans to fly home on Christmas morning. The visit was mainly spent hanging out with family. We did a lot of laying around watching movies, shopping, and chatting with one another. As a Christmas gift to everyone, Wendy and I took the family to Buca Di Beppos on Thursday night. Most of them had never been there, so it was fun to share the experience with them. We opened gifts on Friday afternoon and shared a meal together.
The schedule Christmas morning was to fly back to Des Moines, arriving in time for Christmas with the Vander Well clan around 1 p.m. Mechanical problems forced numerous delays and, long story short, we didn’t get to the VWs until 5 p.m. By that time, we missed Taylor and Clayton (who were already off to the next of 3,567,923 celebrations). Everyone kind of had been hanging around to see us, so after a few hugs and a quick opening of our gifts (they had already exchanged earlier in the day) everyone left. We headed home for Pella.
Sunday (Dec 26th) was a great day. I played bass for both services that morning and Wendy came to the 11:00 service with Madison. Around mid-afternoon Taylor and Clayton arrived and we exchanged gifts. We then sat down to a wonderful dinner Wendy had prepared as a belated birthday dinner for Madison (who had the flu on her birthday). Salmon steaks, baked potatoes, homemade rolls, and Grandma VW’s marble cake for dessert. It was awesome. As usual with dinners at our house, we sat for a couple of hours and talked before the kids had to depart.
“Before I shaped you in the womb, I knew all about you. Before you saw the light of day, I had holy plans for you: A prophet to the nations— that’s what I had in mind for you.” Jeremiah 1:5 (MSG)
A friend called and left a message on my phone yesterday. The words were a typical voice mail message, but the tone of my friend’s voice said something completely different:
“The weight of the world is on my shoulders“
When I finally spoke to my friend in person, I discovered the reason for his depressed tone. He fiinds himself walking a leg of the journey that has suddenly become difficult with an overload of cares. Over a few short days his financial stress, work stress and relational stress have skyrocketed from normal to off the charts difficult.
As we talked it through, we came to the same conclusion from our previous experiences. These perfect storms of life are cyclical. We all encounter these times in the journey when seemingly everything goes wrong at once. We get through them. The momentary circumstances change, and the seemingly unmanageable stress of the moment fades.
Perspective is a good thing. Big picture helps put our temporary tunnel vision in perspective. Today I’m reminded that God knew us before we were a glint in our parents’ eyes. He has a master plan for our entire journey.
Don’t get tripped up by the tough road you’re walking today. Look out at the horizon. Press on.
“Remember how he told you when you were still back in Galilee that he had to be handed over to sinners, be killed on a cross, and in three days rise up?” Then they remembered Jesus’ words. Luke 24:6b-7 (MSG)
Angels remind the women at the tomb that Jesus told them exactly what was going to happen. vss. 4-8
Jesus, in frustration, reminds the disciples on the road to Emmaus that what happened to him was exactly what the prophets foretold. vs. 25
Jesus reminds the disciples that he revealed to them that the scriptures said he must suffer, die and be raised. vs. 45-46
As I read, I thought about my own experience as a father this week, and remembered the countless times my Earthly father and my Heavenly Father could have said “Didn’t I tell you? Weren’t you listening? Don’t you remember what I said?”
We are all just children in the never ending process of growing up. Maturity is revealed in each of us as we remember, via the hard way or the easy way, the lessons we’ve been taught and apply them to our current circumstances.
God, remind me of what I’ve been taught, and the lessons I’ve learned along the way. Give me the wisdom, grace, and maturity to apply those lessons as I walk through my day.
There are so many things that were ripped apart that day. Jesus’ flesh was torn with the soldier’s scourge. His face ripped with long Judean thorns. His body ripped through with nails. His heart torn with a Roman spear.
Then, the Son was ripped from the Father. Carrying the sin of the world, the beloved son became an anathema. The Father turned away from his own. Sin split asunder the unity between God the Father and God the Son. Jesus died alone and isolated. Because of my sin.
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
At the same time, the curtain of the temple was torn apart. The temple curtain separated the “Holiest Place” where God dwelt in the temple apart from sinful man on the outside. But with Jesus carrying the sin of the world and paying the penalty for our sin, the gap between God and man was bridged. God himself bore our sins. God himself made a way for us to enter his presence. The curtain of sin that separated us was torn asunder. Jesus paid the price. Jesus separated himself from the Father so that we could be united with the Father. Jesus paved the way for us to enter God’s presence.
That’s why the angels sang:
“Glory to God in the highest. And on Earth: peace. Goodwill to men.”