We arrive at the end of 2015. The year of the Conservatives winning the General Election in the UK, the migrant crisis, our Queen reigning longer than any other monarch in British history, the Charlie Hebdo and the Paris attacks - a critical year in the battle against Islamist militant groups. But how do we feel we did personally? Did we make it past February with that New Year's Resolution of cutting carbs after 5pm so that our torso resembled that of Daniel Craig, or in my case, Heidi Klum? Or did we end up taking that extra helping of Jamie Oliver pan-roasted spuds with organic butter because it's better for your heart than that terrible, polystyrene tasting cholesterol-free spread?
Too often do I find myself in conversations with friends reflecting on the year we could have had - the one that didn't happen. We read a reference to Mark Zuckerberg's $45 billion empire in the New Yorker, as he offers 99 per cent of Facebook's stock to a non-profit, running in the lead of philanthro-capitalism, and yet I punch the air with disgust because I didn't manage to visit my spiritual parents' new home in Guildford.
Sometimes we enter into the new year by resenting the last one. The goals we didn't make, the friends we could have got closer to, the lifeless job we didn't leave. We hope that 2016 might bring that second child, or for some, that boyfriend that could turn out to actually be nice enough to have as a husband, never mind trying for a child... stranger things have happened in the life span of smoked salmon.
Would it help if we beat ourselves a little longer to the self-pity drum? If we carry enough shame, if we condemn ourselves as much as Santa does with the naughty-list, will that finally propel us to achieving the dreams, the goals, even the baby steps back to the path to success?
A healthier approach perhaps would be to congratulate ourselves on what we have achieved, accepting that some desires are out of our physical control. In 2015, I did not meet the man of my dreams, nor did I find myself with a New York Best Seller. On a supernatural scale I did not see a blind man see, or a leper cleansed, like my buds so often seem to. But I learnt a few years ago that despite making my dreams evident on paper, they must be handled with a light expectation, so as to goad myself with encouragement over disappointment. The pressure of achieving them can be poisonous, but dream we must to give us reasons to live.
Yes we can change with enough emotional leverage from pain, but I'm not a sadomasochist - pain for motivation only can create so much growth.
Yes it is sometimes important to feel convicted on things we needed to work on – the addictions we didn't beat, the unhealthy attitudes that sabotage any opportunity of loving others or ourselves well – these should be seen as painful, and we must look at why we are not working on those. What value are we not having to allow such experience to still take place? Vision is what prevents people from perishing. And with the Lord as my witness, I take note of the smaller things I have achieved in order to believe in the power of Christ within me.
I subliminally record the little things in the year, ones that may not have been resolutions, but accomplishments from the hunger to be healthy, to love well, to grow constantly. I log the conflict I resolved tremendously, leading only to a stronger rapport. The unhealthy potential of a boyfriend I managed to avoid after date two, rather than placate my need for validation. The weight I didn't gain. The smoking I didn't pick up for another year. My comforting hugs I did give out for the needs of those I pastor. The brave face I held on a personally rough day when someone in a counselling session needed me to pour into them, rather than rob them of the ear they so deserved. The criticism I managed to brush off rather than allow twisting in my stomach.
We must celebrate the accomplishments that surprised us. Yes I wrote another book, and signed a third book deal. But it's the little elements of growth in our behaviour that should win the great acclaim. For within the celebration and encouragement of the self, comes an even greater belief in what could be for next year. In how we might possibly glorify our Father, in how we could love someone a little better that creates a better foundation.
I'm so done with the moans of what we don't do, what we could be better at. Let us see the mistakes and learn (tis the beauty of conviction in comparison to weighty shame) and celebrate the accomplishments we did achieve, instead of condemn the things we didn't do.
Procrastination only delays the pain, it does not resolve it. If you wanted to change something, ask the Lord why it didn't happen and do what you need to do. But in the meantime, find a friend to pat you on the back, to tell you that your best was always good enough for Him.
Now if you'll excuse me, I have a train to catch to Guildford.