This year didn’t end the way I had hoped. Maybe it didn’t for you either. We had high hopes for 2015. A year ago the African American community was still reeling from the Michael Brown and Eric Garner killings and the failure to bring an indictment. Black Lives Matter but the violence and injustice continued. We hoped that a recognition of systematic injustice would bring sweeping changes but 2015 closed with the failure to indict the police officers that shot twelve-year-old Tamir Rice for brandishing a toy-gun (in an open-carry state). Lord Have Mercy.
And the rest of our world is as troubled as ever: Isis, Paris terror, dead children washed up on the beach, Syrian refugees and those that don’t want them, politicians on both sides of the aisle who trade principles for pragmatism. Lord Have Mercy.
Personally, this has been one of the hardest years. It began with me settling into my first pastorate and ended with me in a vocational crisis. I face 2016 with a great deal of uncertainty (and needing a job). Despite this, as I look back on this year, I see much to be thankful for:
- My eight-year-old is excelling in the third grade–reading and writing well, great at math and making friends. Her teacher tells us that having her in her class is a gift. This makes me so proud, particularly since we had our struggles with her in kindergarten and first grade. Nice to see her find her stride.
- My six-year-old is funny and smart. She reads well and does her homework without asking for help. She likes knock-knock jokes and long walks on the beach. She is a doting older sister, occaisionally helpful and always a pleasure.
- My almost five-year-old is in preschool. What a fun kid–imaginative and kind. He is our ‘grumpy old man’ with his stubborn strong opinions and lecturing tone (which makes us laugh). He is also the most likely of our children to declare their love for us, “Dad, I really love you.” Melt my heart, love this kid.
- In February my youngest son was born. We named him Benedict Asher because he is a blessing (Benedict) and happy(Asher). He has proved to be both of these and I have enjoyed watching the wonder in his eyes as he gets into things he shouldn’t and takes his first faltering steps. I know parents aren’t supposed to have favorites but I have four favorites. For all of these I give thanks.
- And I am thankful for Sarah. She has been my encouragement and strength in hard times. She is a good mom and wife and a great friend. I am so glad she is in my life.
- I am thankful for family and friends far and near. In the past months I have had conversations with people, some I reconnected with after years apart. They have prayed for me and been a listening ear. They are a gift to me in the moments when I am discouraged.
- I am grateful for ministry colleagues who affirmed me in my sense of call and keep me from giving up.
- I am grateful for turning forty. I’m no longer a young man but one who can showcase a lifestyle of faithfulness by living more fully into the long obedience in the same direction.
- I am thankful for grace–the gospel of Jesus Christ–which reminds me I am not my accomplishments and successes but God’s own beloved. Christ died for me, I live my life in and through him. This is the ground I stand on, my purpose and hope.
- I am thankful that God is not done with me yet.
- I am thankful that our King and his Kingdom is not like other kings. He is the King of kings, presiding over presidents and trumping all Trumps. He reigns with justice, with mercy and grace. He is not a fearmonger with hateful rhetoric but a God of love who reigns with justice and mercy.
- I am grateful for my plot at the community garden and conversations with neighbors, coffee and good books, running trails, and Florida beaches.
My life is a gift. I live under God’s generous, providential care. I feel this more and more. I don’t know what tomorrow brings but I know the Bringer and my trust in Him is growing. In this moment that is enough. And I look to 2016 with renewed hope, wonder and expectation. God has been good. God is good. God will be good.
Are you ready to see what God will do in 2016?