Thursday, December 31, 2009

a year of grace

I look back over the year, and all I see is failure.

I'm sitting at my favourite table in my favourite cafe, sipping sweet spiced chai from a large mug. The table is on a verandah shadowed by oak trees, and I can glimpse the occasional train flashing silver through the thick leaves. There's an open notebook in front of me, which I surreptitiously cover whenever the waitress approaches. I'm writing, trying to unknot the tangled snarls in my head.

At the top of the page I write, "I'm pretty disappointed in myself."

And then the list. Over-busyness. A cluttered house. Over-eating. Lack of exercise. Prayerlessness. Disorganisation. Chores not done. Opportunities lost. So many sins, so many failures, so many unmet resolutions. I should have learned by now. I shouldn't need to learn! I should get it right, right from the start. The perfectionist in me reacts like I did as a child to my test results. "You got 95%? What about the other 5%?" All I can see is the 100% I didn't get.

But as I write and pray, I begin to see the past year in a different light. I think back to term 1, when God took Tim Chester's You Can Change and Ed Welch's Issues in Biblical Counselling and turned me upside down and inside out. I think back to Easter, when God's grace became so blindingly brilliant that it was that all that I could see. I think back to term 3 , when I learned more than I wanted about what happens when I attempt too much ministry outside the home.

This has been a year of grace. A year not of perfection, but of progress. A year when God used suffering to push me into a new shape. A year when I came to see the love of Christ more clearly. A year when my self-control, my ability to say "no", grew just a tiny bit stronger. A year when I gained a little more courage to share my faith. A year not of completion, but of growth.

And so I face next year with confidence. I'm confident that I'll fail. I'm confident that I'll struggle. I'm confident that I'll keep on sinning. I'm confident that no list of carefully designed resolutions will give me some measure of perfection.

But I'm also confident that I'll grow. I'm confident that the gospel will feel new to me, over and over again. I'm confident that I'll make progress, as God's Spirit changes me (1 Tim 4:15). I'm confident that the love of Christ will seem bigger by the end of the year (Eph 3:17-19). I'm confident that, in every circumstance, God will make me more like Jesus (Rom 8:28-30). I've seen him do it before, and I know he'll do it again.

So I turn to a blank page in my notebook and start a new list. It only occurs to me later that instead of writing a list of new year's resolutions, I've written a list of prayers. They cover more ground than my usual resolutions: there are prayers for the coming year, prayers for my family, prayers for others, prayers for myself. It's God, not I, who will make next year one of grace and growth. And so I pray.

images are by tonyhall and aussiegal at flickr


Kath said...

What an encouraging peep into your life. Thanks. I share your feelings and am just going to begin my prayers for 2010...

Jean said...

Thanks, Kath.