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: