My year began homeless. Well, not really. We were making due with a few worldly goods stuffed in a couple of suitcases while staying with some dear friends (who are, thankfully, still dear friends). The house we lovingly called home for ten years in Augusta was sold and turned over to new occupants. We moved to the Atlanta area on New Year’s Eve, but did not yet have a place to call home.
Not only was I homeless, I was unemployed. Well, that is not quite true either. I was soon to start a new work and ministry, but at the start of the year I felt a bit unmoored. For the first time in 28 years I did not have a sermon to write, let alone a church that wanted to hear from me. And although I projected confidence to my new colleagues at my new job, I knew, and they did too, that I did not have a clue what was going on. For my first month in this New Year at the agency I honestly felt like I was just making it all up until I could figure it out.
Each day, especially in the early days of 2016, was the turning of another heavy page in the book of life. Everything was new, different, and at times a bit overwhelming. But soon we moved into our “new” house – built in 1985 – and placed familiar furnishings that helped transform the house into a home. Soon I was invited to speak at churches for Sunday mornings, Sunday evenings, and Wednesday nights. Soon I was learning not only the names of my co-workers, but more about the “business” of our ministry and with each passing day I was gaining authenticity in my projected confidence.
The summer before this “Big Year” my family and I were on vacation with a couple of other families. This is an annual ritual we have shared for over ten years. We love those folks and cherish their friendship (two of them, after all, were going to be “housing” us for a month in 2016). On the beach, watching the waves roll in and the surf roll out, I was sharing with one of our friends, Monica, about the anticipated year of changes we were facing and confessing my own emerging grief with the inevitable goodbyes and wondering about what the future was going to hold with all my unanswered questions. She gently said, “Just turn the page.”
She was right. Just turn the page. Which is what we all do, but rarely think about when life is normal, predictable and comfortable.
So my wife and I have been turning pages this year, which, truth be told, we have been doing all of our lives anyway. Throughout our 28 years of loving each other we have rarely known what to expect with each turning. We have moved six times, raised two boys, grieved the passing of family members, said hello and then good-bye to churches I have pastored, and on and on the pages and chapters turn and still turn.
John Lennon’s song “Beautiful Boy” has a sober line, “Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans.”
As 2016 comes to a close and the yet unexamined 2017 approaches, let us live today, fully, completely, and authentically. Each day we turn a page and read with wonder and expectation of the rest of the story that is still being written.
“[Jesus] set his face to go…” (Luke 9:51)
“…but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead…” (Philippians 3:13)