“A weaving of light and shadow, as the old year dies. But they are the light and shadows not of sunset, but of dawn – a dawn that will turn its dreams into realities.” 31 December 1917
I love a new start! New week, new month – new year! I love to take a new calendar with all its open spaces – fresh with possibilities, wonder of the unknown – and dream into them what might lie ahead. This year, it just happens, that I come to the end of my journal at the end of the year. So I place my well-worn red leather journal into the row of like volumes and break open a brand new one with the resolve that this year I will write legibly and frequently, keeping up with the inward state of my mind as I record external events. And I know with certainty it is just a matter of time before my script will become scribbling, reflecting with accuracy the cluttered state of my life and mind!
Truth is, part of “new starts” is the requisite reflection on the past year. All its ups and downs, good and bad, joy and sadness – “a weaving of light and shadows. . . .” Even as I anticipate the new year, I come to terms with the past year. And this is a good thing. It is good to look hard at the past year and consider what has been and to ask myself what could have (should have) been different… what I can learn from it for another year. . . . It is good to consider those things beyond my control and to trace the “workings of God’s way” throughout those very circumstances. “The unexamined life is not worth living,” wrote Socrates – and, well, he has a point.
Lilias viewed the occasion of the dying of the old year and the dawning of a new year as a time for reflection. She reviewed, even through the shadows, the events of the past year: “I am full of hope that when God delays in fulfilling our little thoughts,” she writes at the end of the hardest year to date, “it is to have Himself room to work out His great ones.” (1903) She anticipated, through the light, “The New Year is dawning full of hope and wondering at what it holds in store.” (1898)
I likewise, personally, look back on a year with “light” (ordination of youngest son to ministry – yes, there is hope after middle school!) and “shadows” (the loss of my beloved mother) – and all manner of colors and shades in-between – and recognize where I could do better (basic disciplines – generally speaking, this is not a confessional!) and where I have been blessed (family, friends) so often in spite of myself. Grace. And never am I oblivious to or untouched by the reality of “shadows and light” in a world much bigger than my own.
What is ahead? Some things are within my control. Many are not. But one thing is certain: God is in control. And it is into God’s care and forgiveness that I relinquish the year past – and into His loving goodness that I commit the year to come.
I conclude my year-end musing with the final entry of Lilias’ 1912 diary – a benediction and a prayer: “It has been a year of grace – an Anno Domini for which we praise the Giver. May He gather all its fragments of the Spirit’s working into His eternal purpose and keep them there.
‘Of broken shells He maketh, so He wills
The everlasting marble of His hills.
Painting: from 1888 sketchbook