I’m writing this article on a quintessentially Canadian winter day, ice blue sky, sparkling crisp snow, smoke rising from every chimney and barely a car on the road. I feel cocooned in my home with the fire going and a cup of tea by my side. Add to this, the presence of the COVID Omicron variant and any incentive I might have had to head out anywhere is rapidly receding.
Another restrained Christmas, with muted Christmas cheer. This year, as we move into 2022, it has been more difficult because we never thought we’d have another COVID Christmas or another COVID New Year. I have to say that I’m okay with the cocooning, but after a few days, I’ve developed a yearning for a crowded mall or a screaming audience at a rock concert.
What might our spiritual resolutions be for this New Year? 2022 is shaping up to be as uncertain and anxiety provoking as the previous two years. So what is it that we need at this time, when we’re all feeling worn down and ragged? I’d like to put a vote in for cancelling New Year’s resolutions altogether. No makeover plans, no matter how laudable. I suggest this year that we treat ourselves with extreme gentleness. We are all suffering from global grief, anxiety and fear. It is now a time to bring out the heavy duty coping skills- the bubble baths, the stream of sports replays, the monopoly tournaments, the jigsaw puzzles. All those pastimes that allow our minds to relax and be distracted for a bit. But it can’t stop there- distraction can only be a stopgap.
I think that we also need to pull out those spiritual go-to aphorisms — those one liners that capture our Christian way of being in a nutshell. Ones we may have lost track of, but which have held up to the test of time — through disasters, wars and plagues.
“This too shall pass”— each year we cycle through the seasons of the Christian year, each year we return to Easter, Christmas and Thanksgiving. Nothing lasts forever, even the garbage stuff. Taking a step back from the day in, day out mire and casting our minds bigger and wider and deeper, can be the shift in perspective we need to car- ry on. Remembering that however things are in this minute, give it 10 minutes and things will have shift- ed, at least within ourselves.
“Count your blessings” — this was a personal favourite of my grandmother. Looking for the little miracle in each day. Searching for it if necessary. Finding that flash of joy that is right before us if we have eyes to see, can lift our spirits and sustain us. Developing an “attitude of gratitude” can change the tenor of every day, again by shifting what we pay attention to and what we let go of.
“To dust you shall return”— con- templating our death sounds like the last thing we should do when trying to find our way during a pandemic which actually threat- ens our lives. In a counterintuitive way developing an ease with our death frees us to live as fully as possible the time we have, less burdened by fear and anxiety. Once we’ve faced the worst that can happen, everything else looks much more manageable in comparison.
“Love your neighbour as your- self ”— in isolated times, we can feel disconnected from one another. By reaching out to one another, we break through the unacknowledged barriers we have erected. Phoning a friend may not seem like much, but you will come off the call having recharged your own battery, as well as doing “a good deed”.
“You are my beloved, in whom I am well pleased”— each of us is God’s beloved. Loving ourselves has always been the hard part of the second commandment to love our neighbour as ourself. Yet it is essential to creating a world of care and compassion, because we can only share that which we our- selves have within us. Being gentle with ourselves, especially when we are reduced to survival mode, becomes even more important. Amazingly, God not only loves the good parts of us, but actually needs those parts of ourselves we’re least accepting of, for they are as necessary to the coming of the kingdom as even what we see as the best of ourselves.
“He’s got the whole world in his hands” — in the moments when we feel most inadequate and unable to carry on, reminding ourselves that we can simply hand our worries and deepest fears over to the Creator of all, is our greatest assurance. All is in God’s care; we all rest in the palm of God’s hand. This in and of itself gives us the strength to carry on during these tough times.
These are a few of the beliefs we live by. I’m sure you can think of your own favourites. I encourage you to find those statements that are meaningful to you and reflect on them in the weeks to come. Maybe write them down in a place where you’ll encounter them during the day and take a moment to reset your perspective once again. It’s not the big things that really make a difference, but the small things done consistently that can bring about real transformation. May 2022 be a year of liv- ing out our faith in ways we could never have asked or imagined.