Hello, 2017. I’m so glad you’re here. I have a lot of hope for you.
It seems I’m always thankful when December 31 rolls around. Every year I celebrate New Year’s Eve by being grateful that the struggles and challenges of the year are over and done with and that I’ve been given another chance. This past year was no exception. The bookends of my 2016 were the death of my mother in January and then the death of Lynne, my longtime best friend and college roommate, at Thanksgiving. The absence of two of the most influential women in my life made for a different kind of Christmas and changes my outlook for the days to come. Looking back at the days in between those losses, the activities and emotions that kept me spinning throughout were of hurricane force. The hurt was a true reminder that I was very much alive and they were not.
Both Mom and Lynne made it known to all those around them that they had placed their faith in Jesus for whatever happens after death. I have confidence that they saw His face the very minute they left this world because of this: “So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him” (2 Corinthians 5:6-9). Heaven truly is a wonderful place because Jesus is there, but also because Mom and Lynne are there too.
So, I am of good courage. I love Jesus too. Following the leadership and example of these women, I walk by faith. I walk, but my steps may not always be steady. Some of the paths I was forced to walk in 2016 were not what I would have chosen and therefore, I was resentful. Angry. Hurt. I’m sure there were days when I let it show. I probably spoke harshly to someone I loved or was snippy to someone I didn’t even know. I may have ignored your need because I was too wrapped up in selfishly nursing my own wounds. I didn’t try to hide my ugliness.
Looking back, I realize how desperately I need a savior, the Savior, to make it all right. I deserve so much worse than the beautiful life that I have.
John’s gospel recounts the story of Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection. He records Jesus’ first post-resurrection encounter with Mary Magdalene. Jesus tells her not to cling to him because he hasn’t been to His father yet.
I’m not a theologian, but to me that means Jesus didn’t immediately go to heaven when he died. He was absent from his human body, but not present in heaven. Where did he spend that weekend between death and resurrection?
I believe he made the deliberate choice to go down the deepest, darkest, debris-strewn path of my own personal sin and suffering. He voluntarily experienced the death that all humans, regardless of their belief in the afterlife, know is the final enemy of this world. He made it there and back and lives to tell about it.
He did it so I won’t have to. He did it so that I can face 2017 with hope and courage even though I will be without my mother and my friend. He did it because, “the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. ‘The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.’” Lamentations 3:22-24.
Welcome, 2017. I’m looking forward to living and telling about it too.
This was originally posted January 8, 2017 on The Press and Statndard website