Monday, January 2, 2017

Still: 2017

I've hesitated to write a New Year's post until now. I realize that I am about three days late, but until now I didn't feel that I had anything to say. Each attempt to frame a post in my mind came out as a petty imitation of someone else's year-end review. I could say how tough 2016 was. How good it was. Talk about resolutions or not having resolutions. Write something chipper or contemplative. But it felt wrong--deceptive--to try to give you some lofty insight on the changing of years if it were merely to write a post and not to share something of value.

I think I now have something of value to share. But they are not all my words.

Tonight I sit near carefully stacked piles of college memorabilia. Four years, now complete, in pictures and programs and invitations and cards. It's been a stressful day, torn between reliving and rejoicing in the past, mourning over a beautiful chapter closed, and trying stay hopeful that the future may be just as bright. I came to the end of my day scatterbrained and uneasy. Aaaaand ... feeling like I should spend some devo time because I hadn't yet today.

I had no desire to stop. Be still. Wait on God. I did it anyway.

Prayed. Read my Bible.

Still very little peace.

A song came to mind. One that often comes to mind when my heart cannot rest. Still, My Soul Be Still by Keith and Kristyn Getty and Stuart Townend (full lyrics here). As I sang the words, a few phrases stuck with me, as they have again and again.

"Still my soul be still
"Do not be moved
"By lesser lights and fleeting shadows "

Lesser lights.

How many of these have I faced in 2016? The desire to please friends, please parents, please teachers, succeed at work, succeed at school, grow stronger physically and mentally. Attractive music, attractive ministry. All lesser compared to the only true Light.

Fleeting shadows.

There were certainly shadows this year. Living further away from friends that mean a lot to me. Loneliness. Failures. Difficult classes. Health problems. For a time each of these did attempt to bring darkness to my soul. But while not all of them have gone away, much of their oppressive weight has passed. They truly have fled.

Every year we will come against the lesser lights that seek to distract from the Light and the fleeting shadows that try to make us believe that the Light is not really there. So in a sense, 2016 was unremarkable. And we know what to expect in 2017. Our choice remains.

Will we, as the Psalmist, face our trials by reminding our souls "Return unto thy rest, O my soul; for the Lord hath dealt bountifully with thee" (Psalm 116:7)? Will we say, "Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God" (Psalm 42:11)?

Will we face the things that seem so beautiful--praise, human love, power, acceptance--with a reminder not to be swayed? "But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you" (Matthew 6:33).

Will we let our souls follow after anything but God?

Or will we be still in 2017?