People have this weird and irrational tendency to begin a new year with the assumption that things will truly be new during the next twelve months, that calendar changes equal humanity changes. I admit, quite sheepishly, that I sometimes share this weird notion.
So, I’ve written a letter to myself, which I now share with you. I will reread this about a year from now, on December 31, 2021. I share it with you because perhaps you too will find it helpful.
Here’s the letter.
I know that you began this year by giving the one-fingered salute to 2020 as you flushed it down the swirl of time. Well and good. Whatever makes you feel better.
Rituals of excommunication usually apply to people, but, in this case, we will apply it to a year as well. Anathema to 2020!
Here we are now, twelve months later, at December 31, 2021. Since a year has come and gone, let me remind you of a few things that you experienced this year that were, well, eerily 2020ish.
#1 You made a whole lot of stupid decisions.
In May, you celebrated the fifty-one years of life that God gave you. You’ve had over half a century to figure out that the best and healthiest life is one of honesty, humility, faith, and love.
Yet knowing all this, you still told countless half-truths as well as some bald-faced lies. You inwardly swelled with pride at even the faintest compliment. You committed adultery in your heart and slandered with your tongue. You didn’t pass a single day, not even an hour, in complete service to God and neighbor.
You good you wanted to do, you didn’t do.
And the evil you didn’t want to do, you did.
You’re still the same sinner you were a year ago. Nothing has changed—certainly nothing on the inside, where it really counts.
What to do? Well, there’s only one thing to do: throw yourself upon the mercy of Jesus, who delights in forgiving failures, rejoices to embrace stupid sinners, and throws wild and outrageous parties for prodigals who are still reeking of the pigpen.
#2 You are still not enough.
Throughout 2021, the high priests and high priestesses of the religion of You!You!You! chanted seductively in your ear, “You Are Enough.” And, at times, you bought into this slippery little creed of self-affirmation, the newest in a long and sordid history of throwaway self-help slogans. It was especially useful when you were criticized, challenged, or just needing to enjoy a little ego-sacrament after a painful pity party. “Listen, you mean world <sniff, sniff> I, Chad, am enough!”
Oh, you’re enough, alright. Enough of an egoist to think you are sufficient in and of yourself for getting through life. You’re addicted enough to self-deceit to think you’re better than other people who sin differently than you do. And you’re enough of a rabid individualist to think that, even without God in your life, not to mention other people, you are complete.
There’s only one thing to do: throw yourself upon the mercy of Jesus, who eats with tax-collectors and sinners and people who think they’re enough, who lovingly stomps out our self-sufficiency every chance he gets, and who is always more than enough for all of us.
#3 You are weaker than you think.
You have this tendency to assume that you are strong. That is dumb and you know it. It has gotten you into many terrible messes and—at least once—completely trashed your life. You think, “I am strong enough to resist this temptation”—and, thirty minutes later—you’re zealously engaged in that sin. You think, “My commitment to the straight and narrow is strong” but your heart tells a far different and darker story.
One dimwitted, inexperienced flunky of a devil could probably tempt you into a whole carnival of sins if he had the time and you were intoxicated enough on your “strength.”
You are weaker than you think. Daily you walk by dangers that could totally consume your life in infernal flames. Were it not for God’s grace and his angels working overtime, you’d have long since been destroyed or destroyed yourself.
There’s only one thing to do: once again, throw yourself upon the mercy of Jesus. He prefers you to be weak—really, to know you’re weak—for then he is your strength. He will fill you with himself, protect you from the forces of evil, and give you his strong Spirit of grace.
P. S. As you look back upon this year and forward to the next, remember that life is not about you. It’s about God in Jesus Christ and it’s about your neighbor. Everything else is by and large vanity. Love your neighbor. Trust in Jesus. He will see you through.