Please don’t stop reading. This is not going to be an emotional piece outlining my grief, but it will inevitably touch on my thoughts as I try to reframe my life in the light of unwanted
I believe it was St. Jerome who, when he was on his deathbed, called his family members to his side, because he wanted them “to see how a Christian should die.”
In tribute to Janet, I want to say that she showed me how to do that. Great courage, a little fear and much hope. It was a brave death, trusting in the promises of Jesus.
As a New Year dawns, it will be the first time since 1977 that Janet has not been in my life. In truth, this is in so many ways an unwanted newness. Yet it is something which must be embraced. For all of us, the continuities of former days impact our ability to move into the things which lie ahead.
Consider the disciples after the death of Jesus. In the story of Cleopas and his companion on the road to Emmaus, there is no sense of resurrection hope (Luke 24: 13ff), rather they see Jesus’ ministry as a failed messianic experiment. Further on in Acts 1, despite the “many proofs that he was alive” and his teaching about the Kingdom of God (v3), they still, in verse 6, have the expectation that Jesus is going to bring in an earthly kingdom for Israel.
They cannot see the new, because their understanding and experience of the old hides it from them.
For many of us, New Year’s bring a sense of optimism. We are going to deal with this or that part of our lives which we find burdensome, trying, or in some cases, downright dangerous. Often, habits of the past, people around us or fixed ways of thinking prevent us from following through on the intention we have or the opportunities which lie before us.
The question I have been pondering is this: what am I to do with my unwanted newness? The first thing I know is that my situation is not unknown to God. It is not his ideal for me, but because the insult of death has entered creation, it is where I am. The result is the need to discern the purpose of God in the midst of the confusion.
When we read the book of Job, we discover that God allows things rather than perpetrates them. In Job’s case it was done in order to enable a journey more deeply into the love and mercy
In a sense, it was a hard grace. So, my conclusion at this point — and it is very provisional — is that unwanted newness is about God’s gracious action in my life. Even though it is painful, I can view the matters of the past in the context of the hope for the future in order to see his grace applied in my continuing pilgrimage. That will require faith, because it feels very hard to attain at present.
I take this opportunity to wish everyone a blessed New Year.
David Edwards is the Bishop of Fredericton
Listen to our Bishop's sermon on New Years Day at Cathedral Podcasts