Every fall, I go a little crazy.
Just a little, mind you.
We have a big, beautiful tree in our front yard that provides wonderful shade to the west side of our house. Throughout the year I rake up the dribbling of leaves that fall from its branches as I mow and edge our yard each week. No big deal; I expect to do this.
What drives me a bit batty is that in December the trickle of falling leaves becomes a deluge . . . sort of. I no sooner rake up the mess than more leaves fall, making it look as though I haven’t done anything. Since my in-laws walk across those leaves every time they leave or return home, I really don’t want the fallen leaves to accumulate, especially when it rains (wet leaves can be very slippery underfoot). Now, if this silly tree would drop its leaves over the course of a few days, I could live with that. But no, as I write this it’s been three weeks, and the tree is still half full.
This brings to mind the story of Sisyphus, who, for his misdeeds, was punished by being forced to push a large boulder up a hill. Before he could reach the top, the massive stone would always roll back down, forcing him to begin again. True, my leaf raking isn’t a punishment – it’s a joy to have a house and in-laws who live with us (really!) – but for a month or so, my leaf raking feels as futile as dear old Sisyphus and his rock.
There are times when each of us deals with seemingly hopeless situations – chronic health challenges, thorny work issues, dysfunctional family dynamics – that never change or get better. In the midst of this, it is easy to lose hope; to become resigned to circumstances that seem as though they will never change. In turn, we may be tempted to disengage or even become depressed at the future stretching out before you. As the Christmas carols fade in our memory and we turn over our calendars to 2014, I am reminded of the power made available to us to deal with the apparently unchangeable situations in which we find ourselves.
At this beginning of a new year, we have just celebrated how God entered into our human existence in a powerful and profound way: by becoming fully human and living among us. Because of this, nothing remains the same. The world says, “Death wins.” Jesus says, “I win.” The world says, “Nothing ever changes.” Jesus says, “I have made all things new.”
The story of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection affirms for us that death does not have the final word; neither do the seemingly unending tasks or burdens we face – even the burden of our sin. He removes that from us and gives us his peace, his perspective on our journey through life. In fact, he helps us reframe problems as opportunities to grow deeper in our faith and dependence on God.
The apostle Paul helps us see this when he writes this encouragement to the believers in Corinth:
For our light, momentary affliction (this slight distress of the passing hour) is ever more and more abundantly preparing and producing and achieving for us an everlasting weight of glory (beyond all measure, excessively surpassing all comparisons and all calculations, a vast and transcendent glory and blessedness never to cease!). 2 Corinthians 4:17 (The Amplified Bible)
May this New Year bring us a new perspective and some new insight into our circumstances, which might also lead us to a new and deeper relationship with God!