I always feel saddened after Christmas. The most wonderful time of the year seems too short and all the gifts and cheer so short lived. I’m never quite ready to leave behind the candy canes, glitter and mulled wine, but I usually console myself with the upcoming new year and all that lies ahead. The big dreams, vacation plans, new opportunities for growth and learning. I tend to recalibrate rather quickly to avoid the post-holiday blues but recently I’ve been wondering if we all move on just a little too quickly.
I’ve never been very good at reflection. It’s a word that conjures images of brakes on a very fast moving race car, when all I want to do is hit the gas and zoom onto the next big adventure. There’s a great comfort in moving on and leaving the past behind us. At first glance reflection looks like a plodding and unnecessary process - the antithesis of growth - which can only serve to stir up difficult feelings or memories. We often think that by entering a new calendar year and simply letting go, we can step into the future unhindered, but in all honesty that's rarely the case. Our hearts are not our minds and we can’t inform them on January 1st not to feel anything about the past anymore. Our attempts to silence our hearts have made us gravediggers, digging tombs where we bury all the the disappointment, history and emotions of the past. We think we can suffocate our hearts voice all under the guise of moving on but as my good friend Jerry says, what we bury we bury alive. And somewhere under all that soil, small fragments of ourselves are concealed and lost too. Genuine closure and growth is never about silence or suffocation, but rather it’s rooted in transparency and life.
Reflection has a resurrection power that none of us should neglect. It’s a tool by which we observe, absorb and empower past experiences to live again in a way that leads us forward into wholeness and freedom. It’s never about re-inviting shame, guilt and trauma but it is about allowing ourselves to live fully alive. Every moment of life, the wins and the losses, are an invitation to experience Jesus’ love for us in deeper ways. When we neglect to look at the painful aspects we miss out on an opportunity for Christ to heal and restore us, thereby shaping us to be more like Him. Resurrection of painful memories is a terrifying thought for most of us. Like many of us, I have some of 2015 I want to bury and never look at again - mistakes, loss and rejection. The thought of allowing some of that to breathe again feels counter-intuitive to my own development as a person and certainly flies in the face of many self-help gurus encouraging us just to let go and leave behind so much of what was part of our lives.
Many of us live with an underlying belief that nothing can be gained from touching our discomfort, hardship and loss. We send year-end updates listing all our wins and rarely address the times we felt let down, abandoned or forgotten. But these are part of life too. And in them we get to experience Jesus in ways we never can when we just hold on to happiness and victory. Jesus takes our tombstones and makes them memorial stones. He takes all our coffins of disappointment, loss and pain, gently opens them and instead lays His own body inside. He took our place and carried our infirmities, transgressions and oppression, but if we refuse to reflect on our grave digging tendencies we miss the opportunity to experience this resurrection power. Moving on to the new often starts by looking back at the old. As you enter in to the joy of a new year, don’t forget to allow Christ to enter into your past narrative as well.