Each January, I spend a little time looking back to the year behind and ahead to what is on the horizon. Last year I wrote about my desire to grow in patience this year. I believe that indeed, patience did grow in me this year. I remember hearing someone say once, “Don’t pray for patience—that’s one prayer that God always answers. He tests you and you’ll need patience.” Well, in many ways, this year was full of many challenging days and was a year that was hard for a variety of reasons. In fact, I’m sorta glad to see it go. Nothing major, just a period of challenge on which I was acutely focused.
Yesterday I was listening to Garrison Keillor question his guests on his radio program, “Prairie Home Companion.” He asked them, “What was your best day of 2010.” His guests had all be selected, presumably for having a wonderful year and were really quick to answer the question. But as I was thinking about my own answer to the question, I struggled a bit, presumably due to the challenges of this year. I sometimes feel like I live life so “fast” that I often miss out on the sacramental moments like being able to recognize a “best day” while it’s happening. Part of it is probably my personality—I see “trees” instead of the “forest” most of the time. I get stuck in details—starting this, finishing that, anticipating problems so as to subvert them, etc. I have a hard time pulling away from the perspective of the tree in order to see the beauty of the landscape that lies both behind me and ahead. I know this about myself, so most days I practice the Daily Examen of reflecting back to where I experienced Christ most keenly in my day and where I felt most distant from God. But even still, last year felt like a blur. In my Garrison Keillor-inspired extraction from the trees, I am able to see the landscape and see some of the best days of my 2010.
I had several “best days” as I took a couple of vacations with friends last summer. We laughed, told stories of the “good old days” and encouraged one another through current struggles. Relationships are absolutely priceless. They are what matters most. And my best days are days that remember that.
Another “best day” for me involves my family. Also last summer, my niece, who is more like a sister (or even a daughter to me) got married! It was an incredible day, as the man she married is a kind and wise partner for her, but also because our family (under the leadership of Megan) and many friends of Megan and Brian, “threw” the wedding for them, from decorations, to food, to flowers. It was an inspiring time of bearing witness to their vows they made to one another as we supported them as they covenanted with God in marriage. I still get a little teary.
I had other days that fell into the “best day” category, but they were much more about the daily-ness of life. They were days when I knew contentment, when I felt love and belonging, when I had assurance that the work that I am doing with college students makes a difference in the Kingdom. It’s these days, without the splash of big events, that I actually desire more of in the coming year.
In July, I was sitting in a Chinese Restaurant in Nashville, eating dinner with a friend who I’ve known my entire life and I got a fortune cookie: “Your fondest dream will come true within the year.” Well, obviously I don’t usually put much stock into fortune cookies, but this one was one of those rare times when I thought there actually might be a little bit of a sacramental moment in the fortune cookie. I don’t honestly know what my “fondest dream” is, but as I look ahead to 2011, I want to live in the sense of hope and expectation that I experienced during the season of Advent. I lean forward into a year where I am living in the abundance of God’s grace, not thinking about the next problem to solve or item to remove from my to-do list.
So, this fortune that I got that day last summer has reminded me to dream. Sadly, in my seeing the trees, I forget that. I’ve seen lots of evidence of God’s faithfulness through the last year, and I’m excited to see what happens in the coming year. Here’s to 2011, a year full of “best days!”