A New Year’s Reflection

“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven…” (Ecclesiastes 3:1)

When my sisters and I were young, every year on New Year’s Day, my dad would bundle up against the cold and head into our back yard and prune the grape vines.  It was a task he always gladly seemed to do alone… not that any one of us were jumping at the chance to work outside in the cold!

He later said it gave him a chance to clear his head after a rare late night out with friends.  More than that, he said he used that quiet time and space to reflect on the year just past and to think ahead to what was before him in the year ahead.  (Honestly, it may also have been just a welcome excuse to get out of the house for a little while: time apart from four little girls whose Christmas vacation had gone on too long!)  Whatever mixed motives he may have had, it is a model which would serve us all well: to intentionally take stock and to consider what our ‘time’ has gone to and where we would like it to go to in the months to come as one year passes over into another.  What better time would there be to consider how we might intentionally begin to line up how we spend our time with what, in fact, matters most to us?

Indeed, the words of Ecclesiastes 3 offer a wonderful model by which to measure all that has been and all that we hope to be and all that we yearn for the world to be as we measure birthing and dying, planting, and harvesting.  As we consider what needs to be ‘killed’ – perhaps within us or in our daily habits or routines — and what or who or which relationship is in need of healing.  As we measure our tears and the times we have laughed until we cried.  To be sure, as we read through the preacher’s list here we realize he has left nothing out. 

Oh yes, as I read through these familiar words once more I find myself wondering how they apply to the life I’m leading. 
  • What does it mean to be born to new life or to “die” with family members, among friends and neighbors, or with coworkers?
  • What might it mean to ‘plant or to harvest’ in the daily tasks I am called to at home or at work?  And how might I might be more discerning about which is most appropriate?
  • What does it mean in a time of mourning to remember that there will be dancing again? 
  • That when I am laughing, others are grieving so much so they can’t seem to remember the sound of such joy anymore? 
  • How much would I (and all those who associate with me) benefit from my remembering that there is, in fact, a time to simply keep silence?  And that there are times when my voice of courage and hope is desperately needed?
  • How do I understand when a ‘ time for war’ is appropriate and what does that mean, really, and what does peace look like in our world now?

And through all such times of reflection, what does it mean to us to remember that God holds it and all of us through it all, in all of our times?  In fact, it is certainly so that such certainty of God’s unending love is what allows me to explore and to wonder about these important questions in the first place.  Otherwise, I’m not certain I’d have the courage to risk wondering at all.

And so for all of you who pause with me as we pass from one year into another:

  • What comes to mind as you reflect on what has been and as you begin to articulate your hopes for what will be? 
  •  How might the words of the preacher in Ecclesiastes inform your reflection this season? 
  • Indeed, what grapevines need pruning — what solitary task might give you the time and space to look back with gratitude and to look forward with wonder now?

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