How have I done this year?
I ask myself that question every December. I don’t know why December, in particular; my Advent reckoning would be better timed at Easter, I think. And yet around Christmas, every year, I think about who I was a year ago, and who I am right now, and where my relationship with God is and how it has changed, or not. I consider that, and I use that understanding to plot a course forward, because that’s the kind of person I am.
How have I done this year?
Every year, I find I’ve done some things more, or better: I prayed more consistently or ministered more consistently, I kept up a good spiritual habit or started another, I rooted a sin out of my life, I forgave more, I was more compassionate. I am pleased with these things, and I consider them evidence of God’s working in me. But every year I am also a little bit disappointed: I feel like I wanted to grow more than I did.
How have I done this year?
Every year I find I’ve also forgotten things, gotten worse, failed. I said critical, unnecessary things – and thought worse. I wasn’t able to conquer that one sin. I didn’t keep up a habit, or abandoned a new one. I still haven’t forgiven that one person and I am still pretty selfish. I didn’t make nearly as much progress as I ought to have or as much as I meant to.
Last year, at Christmas, I felt that God told me this would be a banner year for me: a year that determined the kind of Christian I would be. As the year progressed and turned into a nightmare, I realized God and I had different ideas of what “banner year” meant. Here, in December, I find that while the year was not what I have expected, it has turned out quite well for me, personally: I have been blessed in areas I have longed for blessing in for a long time. God threw open doors I didn’t even know to knock on. And yet I still wonder as I always do if I’ve grown enough, changed enough, if the promise of last December has been realized in this one.
And it occurs to me that I am asking the wrong question. Because as I ask God the same question over and over again, I realize He is asking one back:
Tell me, daughter, how have I done?
To that I can say:
When I was angry and frustrated and blew up at Your plan for my life was some kind of joke or if something had gone horribly wrong, You listened, and You didn’t shut me out, and although You gently corrected me You were happy I loved You enough to turn to You in my anger.
When I was miserably depressed, You strung together ways to get me through the days.
You delivered a long-hoped-for promise to me.
You blessed my marriage and my family and the people I love.
You developed peace and perseverance and strength through trial in me.
You taught me more ways to stay close to You.
And you renewed Your word to me.
So how did God do this year? Spectacular, but then, He always does. And that’s where the progress is, and where it will always be, and as I settle into the holiday season I realize that is what is most important to remember. So much of my growth is tied into getting closer to God, simply to see and experience and understand who He is and what He does. The knowing-Him is the journey, and every year, I learn a little more. That’s where growth is: in Him. That’s where love and hope is: in Him.
How have I done this year? I’m still me this December. I’ll always be me. I’ll always be doing some things a little better, and some things a little worse, and I’ll still never be quite where I want to be. But this year I am one year closer to God, one year deeper in knowledge of God. I have gained a year of working through trials and tribulations with God, of being blessed by God, and of learning more about God with God. And it occurs to me that the greatest and deepest spiritual growth might well be something that can’t be quantified in numbers or objective measures, but rather in the depth and aging of an ongoing relationship that gets a little deeper, a little more challenging, a little more dependent every year.
That constitutes a great year, to me. I hope it’s been a growing year for you, too.
3 thoughts on “The Advent Reckoning”
“Remember, the growth of a believer is not like a mushroom–but like an oak, which increases slowly–but indeed surely. Many suns, showers, and frosts, pass upon it before it comes to perfection. And in winter, when it seems to be dead–it is gathering strength at the root. Be humble, watchful, and diligent in the means of grace; and endeavor to look through all, and fix your eye upon Jesus–and all shall be well. I commend you to the care of the good Shepherd and Guardian of your soul!”
John Newton, Letters. 1767 (Pastor, evangelist, writer of our classic hymn Amazing Grace.)
Oh, that’s marvelous – what a tremendous passage! Makes me smile. 🙂
Wow, so many ways that God was working the same in our lives. I, too, was prepared for a year in which I finally conquered a sin that has taken root. I was sure God was preparing me for that victory. But what He was really preparing me for was teaching me greater truth to be better equipped to tackle that sin again. Or maybe I should say with greater power: HIS POWER. That is the key I keep missing. The “allowing God to do the work through me” instead of just trying to be strong enough to do it myself. I am prayerfully asking that 2019 will prove one in which I attain victory, but I am prepared to learn whatever God needs to teach me!!
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