I love the freshness of a new year, the gift of a restart. It feels to me like grace, a reminder that no matter what is going on in me and in the world around me, I’m always invited to begin again.
This feels to me even more important this year, when we’re a few days into 2022 and in some ways it feels like little has changed. Outside my window, more snow is falling. Covid cases continue to rise. Tuesday follows Monday, and Monday, Sunday.
Now more than ever I need to pause at the entrance to the new year and listen closely. What do I want to celebrate from the past year? What am I ready to let go of? What worked and what didn’t? What do I want to carry forward and what do I want to shift? Most importantly, and flowing out of all this, do I sense a particular invitation from God as we enter this new year together?
As I listen, the call comes, a never-ending welcome packed into three small words: “Abide in Me.”
Abide in Me
I’m not surprised. God’s primary invitation to us changes very little from the beginning to the end of Scripture.
Through the prophets God calls, “Return to me.”
The Father, and then Jesus, over and over, call, “Come.” Come and see. Come, be filled. Come, find rest.
But not just come and go away again. Come and stay. Abide in me. Dwell in me. Settle in and make your home right here in my love. I am where you will find your true life.
Within God’s overarching call to me this year, and as part of it, I’m sensing three specific invitations: Know Me. Enjoy Me. Trust Me. There are certainly other parts to abiding in Christ, but these are three particular facets that I sense God inviting me to focus on this year, each inviting me, in a specific way, to throw off something that is weighing me down or pick up something life-giving as I keep walking this journey with Jesus.
It’s quite different knowing about someone than knowing them.
I’ve grown up nourished on the milk and meat of Scripture, and I return to this precious gift daily. But in recent years, knowing God myself has also meant learning to be still with him. It has meant not trying to read the Bible through in a year. Or even two. Not filling all the space between us with questions or requests or long passages of Scripture, but returning again and again to particular words and lines and paragraphs where I’ve sensed his love. This has been good. I’ll keep doing it.
But when we love someone, we also want to keep learning about them as part of knowing them better. As we begin 2022, I’m sensing the invitation to spend time with God in some of the parts of Scripture that I know less well than the gospels or Psalms or Paul’s letters. Like, for example, the Old Testament prophets which I’m rereading now.
I don’t want to neglect any part of the book through which the God who loves us has made himself known—because I want to know God in all the facets of himself that he wants to reveal to me.
As I sat with God in a week of stillness between Christmas and New Year, I realized more deeply what I’d already been sensing: I am tired. Through the fall, I’d been slipping little by little into my old patterns of pushing through my limitations instead of listening to my body and honoring what it is telling me. My body has been shouting louder to get my attention, pulling me back to bed with lightheadedness, shutting me down and making me unable to create.
We all have these patterns that are hard to break, tendencies that we default to if we don’t carefully guard against them. And though I’ve done hard work to learn to live gently, this is still an area of risk for me. (I’m so glad God knows and loves me enough to keep inviting me back to his rest!)
So as we begin 2022, God is inviting me to focus again on living gently, respecting the limitations of my mind and body. But the invitation is coming framed this way: “Enjoy Me.” Living gently is helpfully enforced by my body, but the reason to live gently goes beyond self-care, creating a spaciousness in which I can know and enjoy God, soaking in his love and offering him mine. It’s there, enjoying him, that I am filled up so that I have something to offer when I turn back towards the world again, able again to extend the love that I’ve received.
Too much of my energy is wasted on thoughts that get me nowhere. “Ping-pong thoughts,” I recently heard them called, where I shift back and forth from one option to another, questioning what might happen if I did this or that. Second-guessing myself. Worrying about whether someone might be disappointed with me.
With God’s help, I want to continue to grow in moving my thoughts from unproductive, energy-wasting thinking to life-giving thoughts. There’s much more to be said about this—and lots of practical work in doing it—but for me, under it all, is a choice to trust, to be still and know that my strong, wise, loving Father is holding me and this new year. That he will walk with me through whatever comes. That I am loved and, in his arms, I am safe.
What do you notice in yourself as you read this, or (better yet!) as you do your own prayerful reflection? Do you notice any longings, sense any invitations as we enter this new year with God?
P.S. If you’d like some more help beyond the questions I’ve provided in the third paragraph above, here are links to a couple of friends and fellow writers who have put together reflection questions for this season of the year:
Photo by Moritz Knöringer on Unsplash
This Post Has 10 Comments
Dear Caroline. Thank you so much for your first letter about the new year. I have been bland. Just another new year. Didnt even journal or write things. Yes covid has meant that I didnt see any of my. family. As they are in South Korea, western Canada, and Inter state in Melbourne Its not months but numerous years since we have been together. But your reminder that my Father is always here always waiting for me. So I just need to step out of my self pity. Thank you for the time you put into writing. Sister in Christ. Janna L
Thanks for sharing this, Janna. It’s been such a hard couple of years, hasn’t it? So hard not to be with those we love. I’m glad you found some encouragement in the reminder that our Father is always with us, even in these painful places. May you know his loving presence in these days and throughout this new year.
Thank you, Caroline. I so value what you have written. It affirms for me what my spirit senses of its own need and longing, and the source of satisfaction, acceptance, direction and peace.
Thanks for sharing this, Sue. I’m so glad these words connected with your own sense of need and longing, and the source of satisfaction, acceptance, direction and peace. May you know God’s loving presence as you lean in close.
I totally resonate with what you’ve written Carolyn, especially the enjoying God part. Letting him fill me up with himself to overflowing so then I can go out into my world and offer who he has created me to be, my true self, to others. My invitation from God this year is “welcoming acceptance with joy.” I just turned 72. I’m beginning to feel my age which is surprising to me since my heart feels young. So there’s a lot of new accepting I need to do but I don’t want to do it with resignation but welcome the holy invitations of aging that God has for me with joy. Thank you for taking the time to share your deepest thoughts with us. You are making a difference in the world, even in people you’ve never met.
Thanks so much for sharing this, Deitra. I love how you’re thinking of acceptance in terms of welcoming the holy invitations that God has for you with joy. So beautiful! May you indeed enjoy God—and be aware of him enjoying you—as you walk with stretch of the road together.
Your writing was so beautiful and full of gentle love and depth.
I feel as if the Lord was telling me at the beginning of this year to just follow Him and you have told me how to do it.
As I abide with Him, I learn to be silent with Him, to enjoy the stillness and company, learning to have fun with Him, relaxing and laughing together. He wants me….. not just my accomplishments for Him.
As I do this more and more, trust grows, even when things seem impossible.
So thank you Carolyn for a wonderful encouragement for the New Year,
Oh, Barbara, your comment means so much. I long for my writing to be “full of gentle love and depth” as you put it, a means through which God draws us all a little more deeply into resting in his love.
“He wants me. . . not just my accomplishments for him.” Amen! This is a lesson I keep having to learn at a deeper level, and I’m so glad God loves us enough to keep reminding us of this.
May you be deeply aware of God enjoying you as you enjoy him throughout this new year.
Thank you for this and for your encouragement! Over and over since I did some reflection using a booklet in the first few days of the year and since talking to my counsellor and you the word Joy has been showing up in my devotions. So I think that is God’s invitation to me, to choose joy. Lately I have felt far from it but I have a book written by an Egyptian Jesuit on the topic that I have started going through and I’m excited about that. I need to learn how to choose Joy, it feels far from my reality at times but I love what you said about knowing and enjoying God and I think that is at least part of it, if not a huge part.
Thanks for sharing this, Bonita. Joy. What a lovely word and invitation! I’m excited with and for you as you begin this year stepping into God’s invitation to choose joy.