“It’s almost time to return to the cold, to the gray labors and long January of our lives.” I read these words (from Walter Wangerin, Preparing for Jesus, p. 177) in Ireland a few days ago, sitting in our daughter Erika’s “sun room” on a gloomy morning dreading the goodbyes ahead. We had a wonderful two weeks over Christmas. But at some point the party’s over, you know. Time to return. And it is January.
During our stay in Cork, Ireland, the house was filled with songs and sounds. The sounds of children—some glorious and OK, some not so much. A tin whistle played by a 3-year-old loses its charm fairly quickly. But in the midst of it all, there was another song playing in my head this Christmas. A sadder song, a song of loss and lament. I think I already told you that we went to too many funerals this past Fall. Christmas cards and letters also shared unexpected sadnesses, and I simply couldn’t forget all those who’ve lost so much so recently. “A voice was heard in Ramah, lamentation, weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.” Matthew 2:18—a part of the Christmas story we don’t hear so much about.
And then my January 2010 post was reposted by our social media assistant. It struck me how much I said then that is still the same. And how much, in my own life, at least, is different. There is still so much that I can feel good about January. I still love savored memories, restored order, and warm slippers. But I see the same truths in a little different light now. The colors of my life have changed. I am 9 years older. And wiser, I dare to believe. Sadder but wiser—isn’t that how it goes? Maybe you, too?
So it was good for me to come home to a little “catch up” reading in some of my tried-and-true devotional readings for the end of one year and the beginning of another. And guess Who met me in these readings? The God Who goes before us every step of the way. The God Who carries us when we need to be carried, when we need a lift. And the God Who “meets our emptiness with His abundance and shores up our weakness through His divine power.” (from Psalm 34 paraphrase in Lesley Brandt’s Psalms Now)
Consider these verses, a small sampling (from the New King James Version):
“The Lord your God carried you, as a man carries His son, in all the way that you went until you came to this place.” (Deuteronomy 1:31)
“I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to Myself.” (Exodus 19:4)
“Thus far the Lord has helped us.” (I Samuel 7:12)
“Even to your old age I am He, and even to gray hairs I will carry you! I have made, and I will bear; even I will carry, and will deliver you.” (Isaiah 46:4)
“The Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your soul in drought, and strengthen your bones . . .” (Isaiah 58:11)
So there it is. We have a carrying God, a very present God, a God Who strengthen us. And here we are in January 2019. Some needing to be carried for right now. Some needing a reminder of the God Who is “our God forever and ever. He will be our guide even to death.” (Psalm 48:14) Some needing someone to sit with them on their mourning bench. Some needing daily strength, a God Who “strengthens our bones.” And some—no, I haven’t forgotten you!—doing a January dance that their kids are back in school. Ah, yes, return to order and routine—and at least occasional bursts of kid-free time. All of us are here. And so is He.
Recently someone sent me some beautiful words from Every Moment Holy, a book of liturgies for all occasions by Douglas Kaine McKelvey. They come from a “Liturgy for Those Facing the Slow Loss of Memory” and are intended for those who care for loved ones facing this loss. But one sentence jumped out at me as my prayer for each one of you, whether January has you jumping for joy or sitting on a mourning bench or just needing strength for each long, hard mama-day:
“May their hope and their humor hold and their hearts be strengthened beyond expectation.”
Beyond expectation. Yes! That’s my prayer for each of you. Hope, humor, and God-given strength beyond expectation.
Remember: “[Jesus’] abundance and your emptiness are a perfect match.” (Sarah Young in Jesus Calling December 31)