This year people around the world ushered in yet another new year. We said farewell to the year that had past and welcomed the new year to come, and as always it was done with gusto and celebration. I think one of the reasons we as a culture are so exuberant about a new year ahead is that it represents a new beginning with new possibilities. We all want to feel like our best days are ahead of us. We all want to hope for the best that the coming year has to offer. That may be especially true for us living in this moment in time, not only in our own country, but around the globe.
Standing in the tension between what has been and what is to come in today’s world is a bit more complex than sheer and simple optimism. In the midst of hopeful anticipation of what the next year might bring, there is also a sense of uncertainty about it all. Nonetheless, time marches on and we will move forward making our own mark on history as did those who came before us.
All this has me reflecting on a couple of things. The first is about relationship and how will we move forward together in a way that is grounded in a truth larger than ourselves. For me the answer to that has a lot to do with how we are in relationship with each other and with God. Because I truly believe that the two are inextricably linked. How we are in relationship with one another is how we are in relationship with God and how we are in relationship with God is how we are in relationship with one another.
The second is about character – as individuals, a society, a nation, and a global community. As a community we have been reading a wonderful book by David Brooks called The Road to Character that offers six profiles in character based on the lives of important historical figures as well as offering some consideration about how we may have drifted away from some of our core truths and how we might reclaim them. I highly recommend this book for anyone who feels reclaiming virtues such as perseverance, dignity, humility and love are important for our time, and for that matter, for all time. There is one common thread that runs through all of the biographies in the book. For each person, their relationship with God (however troubled at times) was important in their lives and in their relationships with others.
As we move forward into the coming year with all of its many possibilities and challenges, how can we do so in a way that is grounded in real truth about who we are and with real vision that can inspire us all to strive for the best we can possibly be as individual persons as well as a collective global community? That personal best for those of us who are Christians are described well by Saint Paul when he wrote that the gifts of the spirit are: Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Generosity, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self-Control.
Surely these are good things for all of us to strive for not only in the coming year, but in our own individual profile of character in life. It is important to note that the first gift of Spirit is Love, and I would interpret that as saying all the others flow from that divine gift. Not a bad place to start if you ask me.
So let us begin a whole new year ahead with our attention to love and let that gift of the Spirit compel us into all the other virtues that flow from it. Surely, by doing so we have set our sight on God and surely all of our relationships will benefit. We might not be able to cure all that ails our world in the coming year, but we can inspire love in one relationship at a time and allow the spirit to do its work with that. How do we change the world? One heart at a time. And as the prophet John Lennon once said: “All you need is love.”