Know more clearly, love more dearly, follow more nearly

For me, there’s an almost irresistible pull toward evaluation and resolution in the ending of a year and the beginning of another. I know there’s something artificial about it, since there isn’t, after all, any particular magic or significance about one day's being the last of 2010 and another's being the first of 2011. Never mind. This week, I am thinking and praying about the pace and direction of my journey, wondering about possible course corrections, and pondering the quality of my relationships with fellow-travelers.

My reflections push me to face the truth that, during the year which is ending, I have traded 365 unrepeatable days of my life for whatever I have to show for the trade. Part of what I am doing this week is trying honestly to answer questions like: “Was it worth it? Has my use of time been consistent with what I say I believe? Have I become more loving, joyful, peaceful, and patient? Am I kinder, gentler, and more compassionate? Am I more awake and responsive to the presence of God in the world and in other people?”

Questions like these remind me that life isn’t so much about what happens to us as it is about what happens in and with us as a result of what happens to us. And, for followers of Jesus, what happens in and with us can help us to become more like him. That is, after all, the overarching purpose of life for Christians: to become more and more like Jesus.

As I understand it, being like Jesus means to live as passionately and compassionately, with as much commitment to justice and mercy, and with as much joy and delight in God and the word as Jesus did. I believe that nearly everything in life can be bent to serve that purpose. Everything can deepen our awareness of his presence, spirit, and his love. Everything can be lived and prayed in such a way that our connection to him is deepened and strengthened.

We don’t know what will happen to us in the year ahead, but we do know that, whatever happens, it can draw us into greater and greater identification with Jesus. A prayer for the New Year which God is sure to answer is the one offered more than 750 years ago by Richard of Chichester: “O Lord Jesus Christ, most merciful redeemer, friend, and brother, may we know thee more clearly, love thee more dearly, and follow thee more nearly.”