The Home Stretch

The Home Stretch November 30, 2021

With Thanksgiving in the rear view mirror, the holiday season is officially underway. So is the run up for the end of the year. And the beginning of a new one.

It has become increasingly fashionable to complain about the negative reality of the current year and plead with the year to come to usher in a  season of betterment.

One of the wisest things I have ever been told is that we carry ourselves into every season. Therefore, if we are not content in one season, hoping the next season will change that for us is an exercise in futility. It is not going to work.

So, how do I analyze this year? How do I finish strong? And, perhaps most important, how do I posture myself to make the most of the year ahead?


So Long

It starts with assessing the current year. There are two temptations here. The first is to focus on the negative, making this year an enemy I can move on from, a foe to be defeated with the turning of the calendar. The second is to cover over all the warts with a rosy, fairytale version that celebrates the good in violent defiance of the bad.

It is really hard to honestly negotiate these two temptations. Because both have a base of truth. There is value in doing each. The danger, the temptation, is to follow one of these extremes past their health.

We have plenty to complain about in 2021. Infertility. Politics. A global pandemic that morphs in both effectiveness and ways to divide us as a country. Kylie broke her wrist. I had an extreme allergic reaction. We left our church. In many ways, we are more lost, confused, and angry than we were a year ago.

In other ways, we have plenty to celebrate. We published a book, the fulfillment of a lifelong dream. We have a podcast and a variety of work projects that have elevated our ministry to the next level. We got a cat. We have deepened relationships with friends and with one another.

Holding these things in tension is the heart of true evaluation. What has 2021 been? Complicated. Just like every year.


A Look Ahead

One of the hard things about looking ahead is we seldom really know what we are looking for. Certainly, we want to have a baby, to avoid hospital visits, and to continue to progress in both our work and personal life.

Last year, we tried an experiment. I will be writing more about it at the end of the year. Basically, I wrote out a bunch of the things we hoped for looking ahead, put them in a jar and sealed them up for the year. We also took another empty jar and wrote all the beautiful, meaningful things that happened. In December, we will open both jars and compare the two.

What is so difficult to accept, let alone know what to do with, is that the most beautiful things in life are not predictable. We may have a baby, avoid the hospital, and grow closer with friends in 2022, but life will inevitably be full of moments that surprise us. Moments where we laugh until we cry, are surprised by new opportunities, and events occur we could have never seen coming.

The heart of this is that we can plan on circumstances, but they are outside our control. We can try to plan on character responses, but it is hard to predict what mindset we will be in as the year ahead comes to fruition.

What we can do is be ready. To keep our eyes on character over circumstances. Hope over despair. To hold the good and bad in tension. And lean into the invitation of every moment – the chance to make decisions and impact not only our own lives, but the lives of others.

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