The first two days of 2023 began with a thick fog blanketing the landscape, and it has lingered throughout the mornings. It’s the type of fog which makes it hard to see any distance at all. It’s not the all encompassing pea soup of the coast, but rather one which gives you small windows of sight before slamming the grey door on everything more than 10 yards away. I could see the vague shapes of houses and trees nearby, and though I could hear kids laughing and dogs barking, I couldn’t see them through the mist.
As I drove through the gloom I thought, “What a perfect way to think of a New Year.” We have some idea of what’s coming up, some familiarity with the lay of the land, and yet the truth is, somewhere up ahead, there will be a point where the unfamiliar rises up, where we’re unsure of the curve of the road, and we don’t know what do to. Something unexpected will come our way. Count on it.
For all the resolutions and goal setting we’re prone to, the reality is none of us know what’s going to come tomorrow, much less in one month, or six, or twelve. No one knows the twists and turns life will take, what the gains or the losses will be. And no matter what we do, no matter how much life-hacking we master, no matter our exercise routine or our financial goals, this year will surprise us, and that quite often, I’d wager. We can hope and dream, and we should, but those hopes are like phantoms in the mist, noises heard but not always seen.
We’re all in that same boat, whether we’ll admit it or not. I used to think a year would come when everything would be ok, when I’d finally feel established, where there would be some sort of certainty I’d feel about what was coming. Now certainly there is some – I don’t mean to sound like life is all craziness and there are no clear paths, yet there will always be twists and turns, curves and surprises up ahead.
So what do we do? Just like driving in the mist this morning, we move forward, though sometimes the conditions necessitate we do so slowly. We do our best take in the lay of the land and make our way in the gloom. We make plans, we establish goals, and we shoot for the moon…there’s nothing wrong with that. And yet I believe a vital part to not getting lost in the fog of life is to acknowledge we aren’t in control, to admit we don’t know the future, and to realize that the best laid plans of mice and men are just that…plans. There is no silver bullet. Life will surprise you, sometimes in good ways, sometimes in bad, but there will be surprises.
There was a time I would offer some really easy summation to this, a very spiritual sounding solution, three easy steps. but if I’m honest, my faith hasn’t been the strongest the last few years. I think the nature of the prosperity gospel to infiltrate even the most Calvinistic of my thoughts is at least partially to blame. Somewhere along the way I picked up the idea that if I did everything right, dotted all my i’s and crossed all my spiritual t’s, everything would pan out just right, and when it didn’t my faith wavered. I’m not proud of it, necessarily, yet it also allowed me to let go of some really bad theology I’d picked up. Sometimes you have to lose your faith to find it again.
The truth is faith feels more like driving in the fog than cruising through a sunny day. I think that’s the entire point behind faith being “the evidence of things not seen,” just like those dogs barking in the fog. The trouble is much of modern Christianity has instead made faith the sure-fire, picture-perfect image of what you can see, if you’ll just try hard enough, do enough, read your bible enough, tithe enough, go to church enough, etc. I was once told, repeatedly, that following Jesus was easy. Well, if I may be crass, that’s a load of crap. After all, Jesus himself called those who would follow him to take up their cross. That, my friends, is the opposite of easy.
He never promised easy, even though I want it desperately. Instead He promised he’d never leave us or forsake us, and that is the one spiritual nugget I’ll leave you with as you start your journey into the mist of 2023. Jesus said faith like a mustard seed could move mountains, so I’ll be clinging to it as I head out on the road. I hope this year surprises me in a myriad of good ways, but when the bad comes, I hope I’ll have the strength to stand, clinging to those words of Jesus, and knowing even when it doesn’t feel like it, he is right there with me.
I hope the same for you. Happy New Year, y’all.