In the human effort to manage time we created calendars. We mark off time by days, months, years. Thus we created an annual rite of turning the page to a ‘new year.’ It is an artificial creation, the new year, but one we all agree upon. For most of the ‘new year’s’ of my life I have been happy for it to arrive. It gives me reason to feel like ‘this year will be different’. Personally or professionally or relationally.
But this ‘new year’ was different. My mind couldn’t get to thinking positive thoughts because the stock market had just suffered its worst December in like forever; the government was partially shutdown with no end in sight as the children who govern us play games with our lives; the threats to world stability in the Middle East were growing. Some ‘Happy New Year’, my mind persuaded me to lament. My thoughts were caught up with William Wordsworth’s sonnet’s first lines:
The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;—
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
…We are out of tune. Great God!
And then another word came to me, a word I credit to the Spirit. “In every situation, by prayer and petition.” I looked up Philippians 4:6. The formula for overcoming my anxiety was right before my eyes. Now I pray for our nation and our world because that is the only thing I can control in the midst of the mess. I cannot alter the stock market. I cannot negotiate an end to the longest shutdown in U.S. history. All I can do is change my focus. I can offer thanksgiving to God for God’s faithfulness; I can offer petitions in prayers for sanity and stability. I can do what I can to get the world back into ‘tune’, so the notes sound like they should. I can stop giving my heart away. I can focus less on ‘getting and spending’ and more on seeing in Nature that which is ours.
I can overcome my anxiety about this new year by giving time back to God, and receiving from God the eternity on the other side of the window.