“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds.” Theodore Roosevelt.
My 100th blog – ta da! So here we are. 2017 is upon us, ready to go whether we are or not.
So actually can someone tell me? How do we get ready – and go?
I took my children out to a pub lunch yesterday as a last hurrah of the Christmas holidays.
I wanted a chance to mark our first Christmas and New Year living in the UK, and spend some time looking at the year ahead and what the three of us wanted to make of it.
I asked three questions. The first was, “What is your word for the year?”
After some thought, mine was to choose to believe that the best is yet to come.
My thirteen year old chose “Life-giving.”
My eleven year old was silent. Then he said, “All that is coming to me is this: Hope.”
How revealing short answers can be.
My second question was: “What do we hope for one another and for ourselves for this year?”
And my final one was: “How can we make better where we are right now?”
Because I’ve been thinking about vision and what to do when you don’t have any. My daughter asked me where I thought I’d be in ten years and I wanted to say I have no vision for where I’ll be in one let alone ten.
But if you look at how vision is born – unless it’s divinely given and a clear call (gosh how I think I’d love this) – most of the time it’s just a step by step process isn’t it? ‘Trust God and do the next thing’ as Elisabeth Elliott put it.
Get up. Do what is needed. Look in the margins. Keep your ears open. Don’t die to hope.
And that’s a key one. DON’T DIE TO HOPE. Because if you’re pressing forward into a future God has for you that you cannot yet see, hope is the momentum that keeps you moving forward. And the death of hope is not its absence, it’s a driving rain cutting into your face and drenching your clothes demanding you give up at every moment.
One of the best ways I know to keep hope alive is to choose to EXPECT SURPRISES. Expect unexpected gifts to show up. Expect them. Be caught out by them. Recognise them when they happen. Because surprises remind you that, actually, you don’t know everything and God is a good god who does.
If you don’t expect surprises, you will easily miss them. I wonder how many I’ve missed already just this year. So shut down in my emotions and locked in by what I can see. (Oh woe! It’s all over! There’s nothing more for me!) I don’t leave any room in the margins to remember how much I cannot see and how much God has provided for all that lies ahead.
‘No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him.’ If this is true, isn’t it certainly stupid how quick I am to think I know it all?
So heading into this new year, I’m going to DO THE DEEDS. Bloodied, dusty, sweaty, tired and a little care-worn I am. But I’m gonna DO THEM. And I’m going to trust that in so doing, and being grateful that I can, new vision will be born.