I love this time of year. The hubbub of the holidays are over. The pace slows down a little after Christmas. People relax more around the beginning of a new year. It is a little more quiet than usual, and I get to spend time doing what I love to do most…
I like to think. About anything. Everything. Nothing. In fact, 80% of the conversations I have are with myself in my own head. No exaggeration. Reflection…one of my most favorite pastimes.
As I have been thinking about this past year, I am drifting downward in a state of melancholy. Yes, of course there are many good things and blessings to count, but I’m drawn to other things: Regrets, failures, wasted opportunities. The peaks and valleys seem more frequent. The peaks are smaller and fewer. The valleys are more frequent, deeper and longer.
If this is a time of testing then I fear I am not passing the test.
Am I overcome with despondency? No, not really, but the possibility seems very real. I feel empty, shallow, numb. I almost don’t care anymore. This is a dangerous place.
I have head knowledge. I know better, but I’m not feeling it. No joy…almost spiritually dead, or deep sleeping. How is this possible? How did I get here? It is embarrassing, really. I’m part of the leadership team for crying out loud! And here I am – adrift. I am in darkness. Almost lost.
I’m out of communion, out of routine, out of fellowship. Did God turn his back on me?
Is this a test? If so, I have failed miserably.
My life has become a small ember glowing in the ash pile.
Because I keep a journal, I see I haven’t read my bible in almost two months.
It is almost exactly to the day a year ago I decided to read the Bible from cover to cover in one year. I made it about half way.
I had just started the book of Jeremiah when I got off track. Nothing like the first part of Jeremiah to lift your spirits. Especially after slogging through Isaiah – holy cow. Kind of like eating lima beans with your Aunt’s tuna casserole.
So it’s been almost two months since I started Jeremiah. I’m in this time of reflection and determined to get back on track. I might as well start from the beginning, I think. Subconsciously I’m picturing myself, imagining a burned up ash pile with nothing left but a smoldering ember.
I read Jeremiah 3:22. “Return, you backsliding children, and I will heal your backsliding.”
A word of hope.
I imagine my pile of ash. I see the ember. The slightest breeze comes by and the ember brightens.
Ah, so there is hope. Focus on the ember, not the ash.
Continuing, I read “Break up your fallow ground, and do not sow among thorns.” (Jeremiah 4:3).
Okay, stop what I’m doing (or not doing), break the bad habits and till the soil – make new, good habits. I can do that.
Has this been a test? I don’t know, but God didn’t turn his back to me. I turned my back to Him. While I may have been in darkness it is not because God stopped shining his light on me. Rather, I had moved so far away I couldn’t see it any longer. It was me. I had failed to be in fellowship with Him, not the other way around.
My ember still burns but is very fragile. Some tasks have popped up before the year end deadline. While manageable, there is no time for planning or much reflection. I look at the calendar to find some down time in early January; I want to stay on track. Some new work has developed that will carry into the first part of January – not many opportunities to spend any significant time planning.
I notice January 16 - 19 blocked out…the first retreat for the new Faculty Training class I’m committed to attend. Thank goodness! A Leadership Institute retreat just in time to help pull me out of darkness. On one hand, do I have time for what is involved? More retreats, reading, homework and whatever else? Hardly. I need more things to do like I need a hole in my head.
But for me, personally, how can I not? I need this. I crave it. My involvement with The Leadership Institute is probably the most significant spiritual activity I am currently doing. I cannot overstate what it means to me, and what the relationships mean to me.
While I don’t need more things to do, I do recognize that I need to do certain things more.
It is a matter of priority, discipline and consistency. And I’m not strong enough or good enough to go it alone.
Will I get some time for planning and goal setting? I don’t know, but it won’t matter if my ember burns out. I’m taking Jeremiah 6:16 to heart, “Thus says the Lord, ‘Stand in the ways and see, and ask for the old paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; then you will find rest for your souls.'”
Sounds like good advice to me.