A father shared with me the progress his son was making. They had experienced many pain filled moments that caused this father to wonder if his son would ever hold a responsible job, have a family and discover each day was God’s gift to him.
I had observed the gut wrenching pain of this father as he shared the struggles of his son. He rejoiced on those days he appeared to be discovering the source of Life and was moving toward a grace filled life. A couple of weeks later the father’s countenance had fallen and the future look dim and dark for his son. This father rode an emotional roller coaster. One element remained constant during the good and bad times. This man loved his son. Nothing the son could do would ever separate him from his love. This the way it is with God’s love in Jesus.
Jesus gives us another chance to start over and discover the blessings, joy, and fulfillment that God desires to shower upon us. That is one of the reasons I enjoy the beginning of a new year. Nothing has been written on a year. It is fresh and unstained. No stupid mistakes have been made. I have not deliberately chosen my own will and rejected the pathway God has set before me. I am free to determine whether I will choose a new direction for my life, or if I will continue down some of the fruitless pathways I had previously chosen.
A new day, set free from our past, is offered by Jesus. Jesus desires for us to follow him as faithful disciples. He also recognizes that we stumble, fall and sometimes deliberately turn and go in the opposite direction he sets before us, because we believe the tasks before us are too dangerous or demanding. Instead of keeping score and informing us that we have used up all of our opportunities, or failed the course, he looks deep within our souls and asks, “How is that pathway working for you? Have you discovered some things that are not going to work, at least for you? Have you learned something about the uniqueness God created in you? What are you going to do now?” These are not condemning questions, rather they are the questions that enable us to learn from our past, develop better pathways for our future, and move toward the future Jesus prefers for us.
Several people in our society, and many people within Christian churches, believe that God determines what will happen to us. At least, there is only one pathway and we can either choose that pathway or wander aimlessly for the rest of our lives. Some go so far as to affirm that God sets that pathway and we will follow it. Our Wesleyan heritage takes a different approach. God passionately longs for us to follow Jesus. He woos us, provides a spotlight to show the way, but allows us to choose where we will go. He is often disappointed when we choose to ignore his bidding, but his love for us never grows cold.
Many of us know this approach because of our parents love for us, or our love for our children. We want our children to make wise decisions, enjoy the wonderful life that Jesus desires for them. We also know we sometimes make horrible decisions. The decisions lead to alienation, pain, suffering, and tragedy, but we make our own choices.
God has granted us a fresh new year. Let us live it with joy. Knowing we are loved, forgiven, and offered new opportunities to be disciples of Jesus Christ.
Grace & Peace,