Raise your hands if you even remember 2013 by this point. No one? Seems about right.
We’ve had 31 days so far of 2014, and it seems like more of the 2013 same. People shooting other people, wars being fought, Jennifer Lawrence winning awards, something about sports… oh, and the Snowpocalypse in Georgia/Alabama.
At this late juncture, why even make resolutions?
Every year I say that I wait to make my resolutions until after everyone else has already broken theirs. Mostly, it’s just nice to wait and see what I think this year is going to bring me before I commit myself to a word or phrase for the whole of the year.
Years are hard to forecast, unpredictable. I know in 2014 I’ll be living in Texas, attending school, battling extreme weather patterns, spending more money than I should on tea, and celebrating milestones of loved ones far away. But other than that…who knows. Because of that, it’s hard to find the right word.
Then this morning, I was getting some milk out of the refrigerator when something on it caught my eye. I have a ridiculous amount of things on my refrigerator: save-the-dates, Christmas cards, ultrasounds. I love a refrigerator covered in photos and magnets; it’s an emblem of a life full of things and people, a well-lived life.
The item that caught my eye was a Bible verse.
Now, I’m not very versey, which is a dumb thing to say, but hear me out. Given that I’m kind of a words person, I get nervous when people pull verses out of context and use them to berate others or support others or mean things that the author perhaps never meant them to mean.
But my dad does this thing at his church every year. The ushers hand out verses at the doors of the sanctuary when we walk in, blessings or promises from the Bible for the new year. I always get a little excited, because despite my logical analytical side, I want to believe that this verse was placed in this pile just for me, for one particular reason.
Who am I to say it wasn’t?
Anyway, the verse was Zephaniah 3:17, not one I wasn’t familiar with.
The Lord your God is in your midst,
a mighty one who will save;
he will rejoice over you with gladness;
he will quiet you by his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing. (ESV)
Chapter 3 of Zephaniah is a traditional Old Testament chapter: “you guys are terrible and if you keep going like this, I’ll probably smite you, but if you turn around I’ll give you all sorts of awesome things. “ (Sara Kelm summary.) This verse in other translations changes slightly. Some translation emphasized the warrior nature of God, others said he will not rebuke you instead of quiet you. I like this version best.
Here’s why. It makes me think of the variety of life, the different experiences that we have in a week, or a day, or even an hour. The loud singing, the joyful noise, balanced by the lovely quiet and rest. All of these experiences are necessary, all are of God. It’s kind of like a continuum.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the idea of the continuum of daily life. Few of us are extremes but rather most exist in this place between the poles. We fluctuate based on context and relationships, but we often land somewhere between the extremes of everything. So when we resolve to be different, generally we’re more successful when we try to move a few degrees one way or the other along the continuum.
So when I wanted to be more brave a few years ago, I didn’t mean that I was going to go skydiving. I mean that in any situation, I wanted to move more toward the reckless pole instead of the afraid pole. And when I said I wanted to be more disciplined, I was never going to run a marathon. I’m a woman of moderation. All I wanted was to move closer to a regimented life.
It’s all about balance.
This is what I’m really looking for: a life of balance, a life where I’m constantly moving more toward center between the two extremes. We can fall into the trap of considering one pole as positive, and one as negative. In reality, everything is bad in extreme, and most things are good in moderation. I want to modulate my life so that it’s balanced in a way that is healthy and godly, good for me and those around me.
So I’m thinking my words for 2014 are balance and continuum. I want to find ways this year that I can eek my way toward a center, where I feel balanced even though life is always tilting and whirling me into confusion and unsettledness.
For me, this might look like writing more. Eating healthier. Spending time with people who fill me instead of deplete me. Read better. Write for class deeper (and earlier). Working hard and long, and playing hard and long. And filling my days with joy, even if that means making choices that others find foolish or frustrating or boring.
My balance won’t look like others’ balance, because everyone’s center of gravity is different. But I want to live a life that is good for me, that treats me well, that is able to withstand the rockiness of the world around me. Because if anything is for certain, it’s that life will be rocky, when I least expect it.
The Quakers have this idea of centering down of opening up so that Christ can do his work in the interior. It makes sense to me, and I like the idea of something both solid and fluid, a foundation that is balanced. Like a boat, both sturdy and yet moveable. Like a continuum.
So that’s my plan for the remaining 334 days of 2014. To find a balance, whatever that looks like, and then to see if I can move closer to center along the continuum: to the center of what Christ longs for me to be, so I can maneuver what life brings to me: this year and every year.