A head cold. Working overtime taking calls from cranky customers in a windowless cubicle world. Discouragement, stress, the gray raininess of winter. All these things have smudged the first white page of this new year.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to paint a picture of tragedy. I know full well I am and always will be one of the lucky ones, globally speaking: life full of literacy and opportunity, food and clean water practically jumping down my throat. An embarrassment of riches. But sometimes it’s the inside of me that feels poor, gray, windowless. It’s my reactions to things that get me down, the same petty problems over and over, caught in the wheel of self-made suffering. My friend Joel thinks the little things are harder than the big things sometimes, and I think he’s right.
I’ve always found refuge in words, so of course I’ve been wondering which word to scrawl over this year. And the one that keeps rising to the surface of my mind is: embrace. I need to embrace all of this, gray walks to cubicle world with a cold and all, every moment of my only life. I need to look past the dirt of the glass and glimpse the truth of the matter.
This year, I want to embrace my relationship in a new way. Several years into what is, God willing, a lifelong love, it’s eerily easy to become the one half-listening from behind the laptop screen. Surrounded by the stresses of our daily lives, it’s easy to forget the joy all the mundane moments build toward. I want us to be the great Love writ small. I want to do her good and not evil all the days of our lives. I want to pour my life out in moments of serving, healing, listening, celebrating.
This year, I want to embrace my church in a new way. Several years into the adventure of living in the same congregation, it’s too easy to take for granted the fact that I have a home. It’s too easy to think I know every person, every tradition, and every song. I want to show up, sing loud, take risks, talk to strangers, ask nosy questions, and savor each moment of the wonderful worshiping community into which I luckily stumbled about this time in 2009.
This year, I want to embrace my friendships in a new way. Several years out of college, it’s too easy to forget how bad I am at keeping touch with faraway friends until I’m writing them a holiday card and suddenly wonder whether we’ve even exchanged emails since I sent the last one. My loved ones are scattered throughout the world like dandelion seeds, and while sometimes this makes me feel wonderfully rich, I don’t want to assume I can always pick up where I left off. That’s part of why I write this blog: to take what I generally keep locked away in my head and my heart and unleash it on the world. I want you to know me, really know what’s important to me, and I want to know you in the same way.
And this year, I want to embrace suffering in a new way. Perhaps that sounds a little morbid to you, like I’m one of those masochistic Christians, like the Catholic Guilt Monster is lurking just around the corner. Not so. It’s just that, as the Buddhists so succinctly put it, life is suffering. Even when it’s not That Day that the earthquake comes or someone you love dies, there’s a lot of painful stuff around us all the time, and we cannot participate in life without choosing either to touch it or to ignore it. Even if we don’t watch the news, there are people around us who are drowning in their pain or trying to drown it out.
Henri Nouwen said, “Compassion is hard because it requires the inner disposition to go with others to places where they are weak, vulnerable, lonely, and broken. But this is not our spontaneous response to suffering. What we desire most is to do away with suffering by fleeing from it or finding a quick cure for it.” No kidding. I want to embrace others in their suffering, and (what is often harder for me) let them embrace me in mine.
So here’s to embracing it all in 2013, not in a perfunctory or awkward way, but with sensitivity and wholehearted care. Whether sweet or bitter, I want to drink this cup to the very last drop.
What words are calling to you this year? What do you hope to embrace in 2013?