Saturday, January 4, 2014

Happy New Year: Carpe Spem

Every January I make my own variation of a New Year's Resolution. While I could dig myself a proverbial hole with some sort of goal unlikely to be reached, e.g. run more, eat better, lose weight, write a book, or watch the Orioles win the World Series, I go abstract and attempt a sacred posture to frame the next 365. This is much more realistic and becomes a personal means of accountability and spiritual formation, a discipline intended to affect my perspective and behavior as I follow Jesus the best I can each day.

That said, I declare 2014 as The Year of Hope.

Why hope?

We live in a world that bombards us with bad news, dreary statistics, tragic realizations, and oppressive narratives capable of rebranding even the most optimistic opportunist into a fatalist cynic. We read of the ongoing battles over oil in the Middle East and Sudan, genocide in Darfur and chemical warfare in Syria, rising healthcare costs and narcissistic politics in the U.S., bankrupt school systems in urban and suburban communities, drug wars and related violence in Honduras, and personal finances that seem barely able to keep up with cost of childcare, infinite student loans, medical bills, gas prices, mortgages or rent, and even groceries.

This is not even the tip of the iceberg of all that can cause a soul to be wearied and a spirit broken.

There is cancer and infertility, child abuse and gang violence, increasing academic and athletic pressures on adolescents, racism, sexism, homophobia masked and marketed as conservative Christian theology via cable television, and the list goes on...

These are all reasons to grieve, for sure. Yet, as Paul writes, we are not to grieve as those without hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13). We are not to be paralyzed and overcome by our grief, rather resurrected by the realization that in Jesus and through those who choose to follow, God is in the process of making all things new and right.

This is the essence of God's promise, a promise I am quick to forget whenever I turn on the news or scroll through my Twitter feed, learn of a friend's diagnosis, or get anxious about a whole host of personal obstacles and ambiguities.

And when I forget the promise, I lose hope. When I lose hope, I become jaded. When I am jaded, I do not reflect the love and grace of Jesus and quickly turn into somebody nobody wants to be around. My life energy, as Richard Rohr suggests, is drained and leaves a trail of "gossip, cynicism, and mistrust hiding behind every action" (Falling Upward xiv).

Therefore, in 2014, I am claiming hope as a fresh breath of life energy. I strive to live as though God's promises are true and carpe spem, or seize hope.
"[Christians] do not merely live under the promise, which could be said of all men [and women]. They live in and with and by the promise. They seize it. They apprehend it. They conform themselves to it. And therefore in their present life they live as those who belong to the future."
---Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics IV, p. 120
May this hope grounded in God's promise move beyond mere abstraction and become fresh expressions of love and generosity, justice and reconciliation all year long and every day of every year thereafter. 

And may these stories, for there are many, flood our imaginations, news stations, social network feeds, and daily conversations.  Even more, may they be proclaimed from our pulpits and lived out by our congregations.

"True religion is always a deep intuition that we are already participating in something very good, in spite of our best efforts to deny it or avoid it"
---Richard Rohr, Falling Upward x


See also "2012 Year of Gratitude":

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