Hard pressed, Not Crushed

New Year’s Day.  The day after the last day of the former new year.  Well, if it can be the first day of the new year, it stands to reason that there has to be a last day of a new year too.  Just to keep from being argumentative, let’s just call it the first day of the year and leave it at that.  I’m not excited about a new year, but I’m not depressed either.  It’s 24 hours later than it was yesterday, another day to achieve goals and serve people.  “What a malcontent!” I hear the comments already.  (Well, all right, probably not your exact words, but “wet blanket” and “party pooper” don’t seem to have quite the same impact.)  I have to say that I won’t disagree.  For the last thirty-three years, New Year’s Day has been spent counting music books, drum sticks, and guitar picks, so I’m a little apathetic about the holiday itself.  I have long described it as the worst holiday of the year, but I’m coming around…

It is good to have a point in time to pause and reflect.  We reflect on the impact of events which have transpired in the past 365 days.  We remember the happy experiences and we consider the unfortunate and even sad occasions which have preceded this day of division between one year and the next.  For many, the day requires tearing the eyes off of a disastrous year and looking forward to the hope of better times.  For others, it is simply a time to give thanks and offer a prayer that the future will be as happy as the past.  I’ve been struck by the incongruity of varying statements made as we approached the holiday.  The optimistic statements which anticipate days of continuing comfort stand out in clear contrast to those which blacken the reputation of the year just past.  More than one of my friends today used the term “Good Riddance!”.  Another mentioned staying up until past midnight to be sure that the old year left. 

As we look to the future, we can’t help but think about the past, but I think we have to be realistic and neither starry-eyed, nor disheartened.  The year past has had its trials.  I’ve lost old friends to disease; vivacious, lovely souls, struck down before their time, seemingly.  Friends have lost unborn children and parents.  Old age has also crept up on our parents, causing the physical ailments and confusion which so often accompany the aging process.  On this, the last day of the year, a killer storm hit a little community close to us, devastating homes, to say nothing of the families and friends of the victims.

It would be easy to focus on the negative and draw the pessimist’s conclusion that we’re happy to see the backside of 2010, but that would be to ignore the joy that the year also has brought.  We’ve seen any number of new babies born this year, without question cause for celebration.  Weddings have occurred, with the joy of commitment for a lifetime by both parties.  Achievements by children and grandchildren, even the delight of everyday occurrences in  the lives of these dear ones is cause for enduring wonder.  Old friendships have been renewed, and new ones fostered.  Another year of living with the amazing Lovely Lady is cause for celebration for me, too. 

On balance, 2010 has been a year.  Just that: a year in our lives.  As with all years, there have been triumphs and tragedies, satisfaction and sadness.  When we believe that it is our right to have unmitigated happiness, we misunderstand what life is.  When we look forward to nothing but darkness and sorrow, we also misunderstand what life is.  Both have a part in making us better people; Both are schoolmasters teaching us to mature into what God wants us to be.

As we move from one year to the next, it can be a time of reflection, even of resolution.  But the recognition of reality and the proper response will better prepare us for the year than any sense of depression or of elation.  God, after all, is still in control.  Our times are in His hands.  And, for us to make events more than what they really are, simply milestones which we pass and learn from, is to take away from the glory that belongs to Him and the potential He has given to every one of us with each passing day.

I’ll try to keep that glory in mind as I’m counting those guitar picks tomorrow.   “156, 157, 158,  Oh No!  Was that one hundred or two hundred?  1,2,3….”

“Yet pealed the bells more loud and deep;
‘God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, good will to men.'”
(Henry Wadsworth Longfellow)

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