In Chronology

Written by Tim Flint

One of my favourite movies would have to be Forrest Gump. I love the elaborate, twisting storyline, the unbelievable scenery, the unforgettable characters. Another reason I like the movie is for the plethora of quotable quotes. You know the ones: ‘Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gunna get”, “Stupid is as stupid does”, “Me and Jenny we’re like peas and carrots”, “What’s normal anyways?” One line that strikes a chord with many comes from Lenore (one of Lt. Dan’s ‘lady friends’) to Forrest on the eve of New Year’s, 1971. Reflecting on the moment she leans in and says, “Don’t you just love New Years? You get to start all over. Everyone gets a second chance.” 

The sentiment is easy enough to appreciate. With every January 1st comes a host of fresh starts and new beginnings: New jobs, new schools, new classes, new houses, new toys, new outlooks, new opportunities, new optimism, new resolve. I’m personally experiencing the hope of all these new beginnings as my family and I settle back in Wagga and begin a new phase of life at WWEC. But what happens when the New Year fails to meet our hopeful expectations? Worse still, what happens when the old me shows up in the New Year and spoils the party? It happens. It didn’t take long for Lenore to slip back into old habits, and I’m no different. 36 years in a row, the old me keeps showing up in the New Year and I’m certain it’s the same for you…So how are we to deal with this reality? How does the world deal with the reality of unrealised expectations and hopes of the New Year? Here are some of the well-worn options for staving off the eventual New Year’s disappointments:

 

    1. Deny: This is one of the most valuable and often used tools in the kitbag of the habitual failure. If you make a mistake, ignore it. Should someone else point it out, reject it vehemently and move on. If necessary, ignore that pesky pointer at every possible turn in the future. Whatever happens, keep your head in the sand. If you don’t see it, it isn’t there!
    2. Blame: There’s nothing quite as soothing as the balm of blame when things go wrong. Simply point to the nearest vulnerable target and let the accusations fire. If it’s not possible to blame a specific individual, let your imagination go wild in developing all manner of conspiracy theories as to who is really at fault in your current predicament.
    3. Shift: This handy little manoeuvre can be used in two distinct and yet potentially complementary ways. Either shift the goal posts of what you aimed to achieve (if you aim at nothing you’ll hit it every time) or else shift your physical surroundings. New job not working out? Find another! School wearing you down? Move to the one down the road. Relationships gone sour? Cut your losses, torch your bridges and start cultivating new and better ones. Haven’t got any more options in your current town? Shift postcodes! Don’t deal with the root problems; there are plenty of cities left on the map. Shift away from your problem!

I sincerely hope the sarcasm isn’t lost here, but in truth, which of us hasn’t employed one or two (or all) of these strategies to deal with unrealised expectations? And again the sad truth is, that while we pin our hopes for future fulfilment on our own performance, or the performance of others, it is inevitably doomed to failure. 

But is the only solution then to deny, blame or shift? Praise God the answer is a resounding NO! If you’re a Christian then it’s worthwhile constantly reminding yourself that your hope for the future is not in yourself. It’s not in new jobs or new schools or new relationships or new postcodes or new years; our hope is in the One whose mercies are new each day! Just listen to the writer of Lamentations as he reflects on the anguish of unrealised expectations and the perilous predicament of exile, Lamentations 3:19;

Remember my affliction and my wanderings, the wormwood and the gall! My soul continually remembers it and is bowed down within me. 

But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” 

(Emphasis added)

It’s here we find a very different set of coping strategies to the ones already mentioned. 

      1. Don’t deny… acknowledge – sometimes things don’t turn out well, and though not every problem we face can be solved, no problem can be solved unless we face it.
      2. Instead of blame… admit – sometimes things don’t turn out well, and sometimes I’m the one at fault.
      3. Shift… but not your ideals or physical surroundings. In fact the only way that Christians are able to acknowledge their problems and admit their responsibility in failure is because several fundamental shifts have occurred. Through the gospel we are invited to shift our guilt and shame to Jesus, who willingly died as a substitute to pay the penalty we deserve. We can only do this as we shift our hope and allegiance to Jesus, not just as our saviour, but also as our King. His death and resurrection make him the only one who is able to deal with the reality of human frailty and failure; and the only one worthy of all hope and praise. 

I don’t know what 2017 holds for you, but I do know the one who holds it! No matter what lies ahead, no matter what trials or triumphs; here is the place to set your hope – not in new beginnings brought by the New Year – but in the God whose mercies are new each day! What a magnificent reality we get to live out because of Jesus! 

If you are a Christian then relish the hope you have secured in Christ. If you’re not a Christian yet…shift teams!

Tim Flint

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