LIVING AS APPRENTICES
My Christmas decorations are put away, the furniture is re-arranged, the frosted cookies are almost gone. Somehow Advent has already moved into Christmastide; soon it will be Epiphany (Jan. 6). On January 13 we will silently pass into Ordinary Time until Lent.
In early December I watched a satellite broadcast featuring Francis Chan who remarked on how time speeds up as you grow older. He assigned miles per hour based on your age. For example, for a 7-year-old time moves at 7 miles per hour. At that rate it seems as if Christmas will never arrive. Francis, himself, is turning 50 and has noticed that time is going at 50 mph. When he complained that he’s having trouble keeping up, I smiled and thought, “You haven’t seen anything yet! Wait until you are 71 and life is going at more than 70 miles per hour.”
I mused often about the passage of time as the liturgical year flowed briskly along this month. What do you do when life is going so fast it’s like trying to enjoy the scenery as it flies past your car window? Well, you can try to drive the car more slowly; that is, you can deliberately choose to change the pace of your life. And you can attempt to fully inhabit each present moment, which, after all, is the only moment you can live in (and the only moment God lives in) – even though many of us sneak back into the past or in the future.
For most of us, this musing on time intensifies as we approach New Year’s Day. Somehow, no matter how many miles per hour our lives have been traveling, we are leaving 2013 and traveling into 2014. Now we are thinking about “do-overs,” blank slates, renewal. Most of us are grateful to be reminded of the opportunity for “newness.” Somehow the arbitrary date of January 1 makes us think like Jesus who said, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near (Matt. 4: 17). James Bryan Smith points out in The Good and Beautiful Life that the Greek word we translate as repent is metanoia, which literally means “change your mind.” It is an invitation to a new way of life. Turn around, change your thinking, start again – with Jesus.
Richard Rohr comments on this phenomenon in Everything Belongs: The Gift of Contemplative Prayer. He says, “When we celebrate New Year’s Day, and maybe Easter too, we celebrate a symbolic rebirth of time. We somehow hope for God to do new things with us and for us. We wait for the coming of grace, for the unfolding of Mystery. We wait for the always-bigger Truth. . . . But we cannot just wait. We must pray too, which is to expect help from Another Source. Our prayers then start both naming us and defining us. When we hear our own prayers in our own ears and our own heart, we start choosing our deepest identity, our biggest future, and our best selves” (p. 154).
Jesus and Richard Rohr have it all over the idea of New Year’s resolutions, which nearly always fail They show us how to really live in newness. We make a choice and wait for God to help us do the work.