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Through Lattice Windows: A New Year And A Fresh Hope

"This, then, is my hope for the new year. I have assembled a set of goals which I wish to reach over the next twelve months, but achieving these is secondary to the greater wish I have, which is to be found faithful in managing the responsibilities, gifts and challenges that characterise my life,'' declares Leanne Hunt.

Thanks to the march of time, we have no choice about entering the new year. It just comes upon us like the dawn, accompanied by whatever feelings arise in us at the thought of what may lie ahead. I have greeted many new years with a sense of high anticipation, convinced that they would deliver on my dreams, and I have stumbled into others with a sense of dread about the unknown territory ahead.

Last year was one of those dark times when the year ahead felt forbidding even though there were aspects in it that held promise. As it turned out, the entire year was a challenge for me because my plan to be mobile with a permanently-employed driver were stalled for eight months. If it hadn't been for my prayer guide training course and access to the internet, I would have been driven crazy by loneliness and frustration.

So it was that, when I heard a new year's message at my sister's churchI understood something I had not grasped before. The sermon was about faithfulness and drew from the parable of the talents. "Begin with what is in your hand," said the preacher, "and be faithful in it." He referred to responsibilities such as motherhood or a job, and to gifts such as musicality or compassion, which is the way I have read the passage before. However, it struck me that what we have in our hand is sometimes less useful and more of a burden - such as disability, illness or some other disempowering circumstance. Surely, it is in situations like this that faithfulness is really tested to the limit, and though we might not always look as if we are triumphing through, what matters is that we get to the other side in one piece. It is all very well to invest money and skills and come up with an impressive result at the end, but God looks on the heart, not the outward trappings of success. Faithfulness is about continually remembering the source of our life and returning to it, even when that source seems to have drawn back.

Faithfulness is not easy if we regard it rationally. It looks like foolishness, doing the same thing over and over in expectation of a different outcome. Yet, deep down, we are programmed with the instinct to keep on trying, and so, when we have exhausted all other paths of sustenance, that is what we do. We say, "It is no longer up to me; all I can do now is wait for help to come." That is the classic cry for salvation of which the Bible speaks. And the promise of Scripture in which we take courage is this: "Do not despair. Your God will surely come. He will come and save you."

Christians profess their belief in the return of Christ at the end of the age. The event is supposed to happen with the sound of trumpets and the raising of the dead - a magnificent display of power from on high. I prefer to read the coming of the Lord on a more interior level, as the long-awaited ending of the dark night of the soul. At this time, faithfulness will be rewarded by the relief of knowing that it has all been worthwhile. Steadfastness in the face of a seemingly absent God will no longer look like foolishness but like courageous perseverence. Weariness and the sense of abandonment will be replaced by joy and intimacy.

This, then, is my hope for the new year. I have assembled a set of goals which I wish to reach over the next twelve months, but achieving these is secondary to the greater wish I have, which is to be found faithful in managing the responsibilities, gifts and challenges that characterise my life.

Even if I am the only one who judges myself in the end, I want to look back on this time and feel assured that I did the best possible, honouring my deceased parents, respecting my fellow human being, upholding standards to protect the young, demonstrating patience through hardship and inspiring hope in those who might otherwise feel that their situations are desperate.

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