Yesterday evening, as people settled in or headed out to celebrate the birth of a new year, I went for a wander, trying to somehow pull together the various threads that made my 2014. As with so many, there were ups and downs – chords of joy, hope and laughter, and chords of sadness, frustration and regret.
Major and minor.
As I tied this altogether in my mind, I sought to find a few words of summary – a conclusion of sorts before the credits rolled. Then the words came. They seemed fitting for what had been, but also for what would come. The perfect cue for both thankfulness and hope. They are the words from one our most treasured of hymns, Amazing Grace by John Newton:
‘Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home.’
Cue the credits.
Credits rolled (wouldn’t take long, in my case!), I began to look ahead to what 2015 may bring. Though it’s detail looked hazy and uncertain, I could hear the song of grace hopefully fill and penetrate the horizon.
Quickened by this thought, and with the sound and colour of fireworks filling the chilled night sky, I began searching for a verse take hold of into this new year. Something to challenge and inspire, to keep me from the subtle dangers of apathy and single-mindedness that I find too often creep in unaware as the humdrum of life beds in.
Later on, as I saw in 2015 with my parents, a passage of the Bible began to settle in my mind. I wrote it down:
These words should not be reserved merely for a new year; they should be for every new day, at home in the hearts of all those seeking to follow Jesus. That’s why it’s good for me to lay hold of them with renewed commitment and intention. Days too often pass where I don’t love God and draw near to Him as I should, nor love those I encounter with the same care and attention I give myself.
That’s not how God wants or created us to live. He created us for love. To be loved and to love.
God is my portion and my bread. All I need. He satisfies and fulfils more than anyone or anything. Hope. Peace. Grace. Joy. The highest and widest and longest love. He is so worthy of all my efforts and affections, giving everything for me and for us. And yet, whilst my all could never come close to honouring all that God is and has done through Jesus, what I can give – the fragile and fallen pieces of heart, soul, mind and strength – is enough for Him.
And to love God is to love all. Love can be easy at times – like a walk in the neat and picturesque park on a bright summer’s day. But more often than not, love is hard. We don’t always feel like loving people. People annoy us, hurt us, distract us.
With me, too often the needs of self cause the needs of others to fade into the background. Me in colour; they in black and white. The amazing yet challenging reality of this commandment is that God calls us to love others as we love ourselves. As we naturally look after ourselves, so we should naturally look after our neighbour.
Both us and our neighbour in colour.
To love takes on different forms. It’s a helping hand. A smile. A door held open. A forgiving heart. A gift of chocolate. A listening ear. An encouraging and affirming word. A phone call or email. An hour of our time to help move the washing machine. A mindful and sensitive attitude to the circumstances of others. A refusal to gossip. A prayer. A hug.
A laying down of self.
To be loved and to love is a beautiful thing. God is love. This day, this week, this month and this year, I want to give more to the Author of love. Not only that, with the Author’s love in sight, to see and approach every man and woman as so loved by God, because that is what we all are. All in colour.
I won’t ever perfect love this side of heaven, but as each day passes I hope and pray I’ll get a step closer. For God and for others.
And if you see me on the journey, ask me how it is going. It may be just what I need to stop falling back!
Happy New Year x