On the 25th of December, I took a minute out of the day to listen to the Queen of England deliver her Annual Christmas Message to the Commonwealth. This one sentence has plastered itself to the walls of my brain:
“We all need to get the balance right between action and reflection. With so many distractions, it is easy to forget to pause and take stock.”
Was she thinking of me when she spoke thus? So often I count action as the more pressing need, with reflection paling into a distant second. Too often I find myself stealing moments of time from one event to reflect on another.
She is the Queen, and I am a loyal subject, so I find myself taking heed of her advice to “pause and take stock”.
Much has happened in the last 12 months. A future leader, Prince George, was born. A new Pope was chosen. The European Union bailed out another country in crisis. Someone bombed the Boston marathon. Morsi was ousted in Egypt. The Syrian civil war raged. The Philippines were devastated by Typhoon Haiyan. An iconic world leader, Nelson Mandela, passed away.
If you close your eyes does it almost feel like nothing’s changed at all? If you close your eyes does it almost feel like you’ve been here before? When I look to 2014, how am I going to be an optimist about the future? Where do we begin to rebuild the world from the broken mess that it has become?
Closer to home there was the debacle of the Australian federal election. The crisis of asylum seekers. The devastating bush fires in and around Sydney. In my own suburb there were prominent strikes at the neighbouring university.
Why does it feel like the new Cabinet in Government is an undoing of 40 years of fighting for equality between women and men? Are we losing the battle against racism and settling for comfort over compassion? Am I courageous enough to speak out against what is not God-honouring? Will I do more than sit on the couch with a glass of wine and whinge about bad government policy?
Even closer to home, I lost January to a virus that saw me confined to the couch while I worked my way through the whole series of Alias. I lost the last week of my academic year to the flu. I finished a degree. I freaked out about the future. I travelled. A lot.
Why is it easy to complain to God when my life doesn’t proceed according to my plan and so hard to return thanks to Him for the moments of pure delight? Why is God thwarting my plan to be a missionary? Why is he closing every door except the one that I’m afraid to walk through? If Christianity is all about trusting God, then why it is so hard?
Why? Why? Why?
I’m afraid to admit that mostly I have only questions. Not many answers here. Will I have a similar reflection at the end of next year? Probably. It almost seems like the world keeps turning and events keep happening as they have since the beginning of the world. Is not every year the same with joys and sadnesses in a constant stream? Now that I take a moment to reflect, I see that my focus has narrowed too much. I see only the trauma and grief, or the joy and happiness. What of the bigger picture? I realise I have become like the scoffers in 2 Peter 3:4,
They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.”
It’s easy to think thus. After all, I see what appears to be a world on repeat. It’s not that I deliberately ignored the fact of God’s creative activity, it’s just that I focused on action and forgot reflection. If I had remembered to reflect, perhaps my attention would have been more evenly divided between the crises of the world, and the reality that,
The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance (2 Pet 3:9).
Perhaps that would have given me a little perspective. Perhaps it would have stopped me falling into disillusionment at major world conflicts. Perhaps it would have tempered the effect that others have on my mood. Perhaps it would have helped me see the bigger picture. What it won’t do is stop me being devastated at civil wars, delighted at beautiful sunsets and new life, and committed to using the voice that God has given me to speak a word of truth and love.
Having regained a little perspective, I once again I make my New Years resolution: looking forward to the return of Jesus, I will, God-willing, work for the good of all people and the glory of God. I pray He will give me an ever more thankful heart, and a spirit ready and willing to trust him.
Thanks be to God for the Queen, and her reminder to “pause and take stock”. God certainly does work in unusual ways sometimes.