Reflections along the way

A year in review

I’ll never forget walking up to Hősök tere, Heroes’ Square, at about ten thirty on my last night in Budapest. In 1989, 250,000 people had gathered in the square for the reburial of Imre Nagy – alongside the heroic Pál Maléter and others – but that night I found myself alone amidst the indescribable beauty and grandeur of the millennium monument and its colonnades.

I wandered to the middle of the square, exactly central, sat cross legged on the ground and relaxed; a lone rollerblader glided gracefully by and circled the monuments, as if sent by some benevolent choreographer to perform a silent ballet and add to the exquisite theatre of the night.

The soothing sounds of Bear’s Den played in my ears, and I jotted some notes in my moleskine. It was one of those transcendent moments that will stay with me for the rest of my life; a moment in time where everything seems perfect and you have neither fears nor worries, only a vast appreciation for the beauty of the present.

Hősök tere, Heroes' Square, BudapestHeroes’ Square, Budapest

I have already blogged about another such moment of bliss, quite different and yet having the same effect on my soul, playing football with Tanzanian children while the sun set and Glorious Ruins played prophetically across Isamilo hill in Mwanza. I count myself unfathomably blessed to have had two such moments in a lifetime, let alone a single year.

In church life we’ve been blessed to see our extension service at Newcastle North flourish, seeds people planted over the course of years in that area have came to grow. We’ve seen decisions to follow Jesus and answers to prayer; I remember, still on my trip to Central Europe, being hunched over my iPad in my hostel, watching via livestream with tears in my eyes as some of our community were baptised.

Yet when I pause to reflect on the year it’s not just these memories that flood my mind. Isn’t it strange that no matter how good the year, we can still find ourselves picking out the negatives? Left to our own devices, our minds often glance over moments of awe but linger on moments of angst, choose to dwell in a self imposed wilderness rather than delight in the promised land.

Left to our own devices, our minds often glance over moments of awe but linger on moments of angst

This is part of human nature, we’re excellent at focussing on the wrong thing and getting our perspectives all confused. We can perceive our spiritual well being through the lens of emotions and feelings, good or bad, rather than what Christ has done. There are probably few times that we do this more than at the turning of a year.

Reflection is a good habit, but if we use it to focus on the negative it can become a bad one just as easily. We can look at how we felt at a particular time and doubt the over riding themes of God’s goodness – like picking a single verse from His word on wrath and using it to deny His love, or focussing in on judgment while forgetting mercy.

In the book of Proverbs we learn that the path of the righteous – that’s us, by the way, made righteous through Christ – is like the light of dawn, which shines brighter and brighter until full day.

But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, which shines brighter and brighter until full day.
– Proverbs 4:18

It’s a beautiful image, but what does it mean? If life is only going to get better from the day we’re saved and made righteous then why did that bad thing happen? Why did we endure trouble or trial? If everything is only getting brighter then surely we should never experience a negative thing again?

I’ve recently being doing some work for a bank, and one of my first tasks involved presenting graphs of investment funds for comparison; the thing about these graphs is that none of them is a perfect, ever-increasing, line. They have high days and low days, but what is really important isn’t how the fund is at a given point but what the overall trend is.

In life things are rarely as good as they feel on the best days, and never as bad as they feel on the worst. The peaks and troughs still happen all the same, but from the moment we are made righteous in Christ our life takes on that upward momentum.

From the moment we are made righteous in Christ our life takes on that upward momentum.

Life becoming ever brighter doesn’t refer to our feelings in a single moment but the overall direction of our life. We may still have bumps in the road, but what’s different is that life’s movement is on that upward path.

So as we close out 2015, and you reflect on what’s went well and what’s went badly about the year, spend more time thinking about the overarching themes of your life since redemption. You’re not defined by your lowest moments, or your highest, but by the direction you’re travelling in. That’s one of the main things that this year has taught me.

The path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, which shines brighter and brighter until full day.

Happy new year, and thanks for reading.

All photographs copyright Peter Jobes, 2015, all rights reserved.

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