I am sure some of you who have read my articles have probably wondered why I have focussed on time and aging. Those ideas were born out of having time on my hands, introspection, writing in my journal and seeing my 94 year old mother really getting old.
I was also fortunate to read a wonderful book Four Steps to Spiritual Freedom written by Thomas Ryan CSP, which was my Lenten retreat. In it he outlines these steps as he invites the reader to: (1) Know Who You Are (2) Live Your Calling to the Full (3) Let Go of Results (4) Daily Rededicate Your Life to God.
Then I had even greater pleasure to meet the author. Later as if to add icing to the cake I found another uplifting book by Joyce Rupp entitled Dear Heart, Come Home , in which she explores "The Path to Midlife Spirituality". I am still reading this one, but it set off bells in my head and psyche. She says, "One can die at 40 and not get buried until 90."
Life I will admit does throw one some curve balls and how one plays these balls can make a big difference in how one lives life. So as we begin the new year I felt the urge to write and share some of my reflections on growing into 2005 rather than simply welcoming it.
Depending on experiences in 2004, some may be dreading the approach of another 365 days, while others may carry over the joyful Advent expectancy. The fact remains that regardless of how one approaches 2005, time marches on and it is an entity that has to be faced.
I would like to think that spiritual growth and freedom are possible if only we would let them happen. Freedom however is not totally free and growth can sometimes be stunted. This would not be the focus here, but we have to acknowledge the fact that hurdles do present themselves on one's path.
One can grow in spiritual freedom if deep honest inner reflection takes place. This is not always easy to do especially when this exercise gives answers one would prefer not to acknowledge. Remember too that glib superficial answers may help temporarily especially when the New Year euphoria pervades and there is a feeling of "yes I can do it".
Then the end of January arrives and the year begins to whiz by. And before you know it the Lenten season enters and it is "oops" and you promise to reflect again. And so it continues for the entire year and that very first hesitant step remains just that.
Using Ryan's book my first step was truly recognising that God is my Creator and I am simply one of His works of art. Now I already knew that but it took on a new meaning due to circumstances, and everyone responds differently to situations.
This was a grand step for me because it further humbled me into knowing that whoever or whatever I say I am is of little consequence until I acknowledge the pivotal place the Creator has in my life. Accepting that did not necessarily make life easier for me in 2004 but it gave me the courage to go on.
Confirming the fact that God is the Potter and we are the clay may seem like a small step because we can all rattle off the answer to the question "Who made you?" But how much deeper do we go when we answer and say "God made us" and add that "He made us to know, love, serve Him and to be happy with Him in the next."
What I am saying here is that we need to do something like a fire drill and "Stop, Drop and Roll". Stop and think of God's love for us. This will lead us into knowing the nature of God, which then brings self- knowledge, because God dwells in each of us.
Later we can drop our fears and insecurities, roll them over to God, so that we can begin to be happy with Him in the here and now in 2005.
Do not be afraid of falling in the process of growing into 2005 because there is an exciting part. This is found in God's abounding grace that gives us the impetus and energy to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and move on with renewed vigour to be borne on eagle's wings to new heights. Ryan suggests, "we would do better to think of ourselves as leaky buckets.
Immersed in the ocean, they are always filled. We are better advised to accept the limits and imperfections the holes represent and stay immersed in the ocean of God's accepting, forgiving, unconditional love, than to try to become perfect by patching all our holes" ourselves.
I concur with this suggestion because this is what growth is all about, stopping, starting again and each time we begin again it should be from a position of knowing. Then too we should not lose sight of a simple truism that difficulties may come but they do not always stay.
With these thoughts I would like to wish everyone, including myself, a wonderful year of deep spiritual growth and freedom, because we claim to know what to do but that is so different from actually doing it.