Is anyone mourning the end of 2016? Memes everywhere are heralding its demise. The end of the Obama presidency. Stanching the flow of celebrity deaths. My favorite is this Sgt. Pepper's homage that manages to link Brexit with Toblerone and Garry Shandling (thanks, christhebarker!).
This holiday season has been a time for lament. We had a group over for brunch earlier this month. Every one of them had a rough year. Every one had suffered, been in unnameable pain, struggled with identity, purpose, relationships, loss. The election. Death. Betrayal (which is a kind of death).
Each one had also experienced beauty or triumph. Created art. Traveled. Discovered passions. Played music for new audiences. Found the right job. Taken time to grieve.
This year I've had the privilege of watching the Holy Spirit at work. In our church the singing and prayer have deepened, lengthened, and breathed life, largely because the worship minister has chosen to heed Her beckoning to him. Unlikely friendships have become soul-strengthening bonds. Art has emerged from people who would never have called themselves creative. Old ways have become barren, but new sparks are being enflamed.
2016 has reminded me that we always have a choice. We may not be able to change our circumstances, but we can always choose our responses. At the risk of being too Kimmy Schmidt, "You can either curl up in a ball and die, like we thought Cyndee did that time, or you can stand up and say, 'We're different. We're the strong ones, and you can't break us.'"
The number 2017 is prime. It cannot be divided by 2, 3, 5, or any other number but 1 and itself. I like prime numbers. Always have. They are indivisible. Unique. The last year that was a prime number was just five years ago, 2011. That year I left my pastorate and we switched valleys, from Silicon to Cumberland. The entire holiday season we were homeless, staying in hotels and basements, on couches or three to a bed. It was special kind of hell that extended through 2012. For me that was a year of unnameable pain, struggles with identity, purpose, relationships, loss. Death. Betrayal. I wasn't certain I would live through it, and wasn't at all sure I wanted to.
What was birthed from that groaning suffering was hope. A spiritual friendship I didn't have words to pray for. The fulfillment of my promise to write the Dictionary. Completing my doctorate. Singing. Laughter. Good work to do, and people to do it with. A warm home on loan from God. And most of all: the opportunity to see the Spirit do what only She can do.
I believe with all my heart that creation is groaning with birth pangs. While 2016 saw a lot of ugliness and pain and death, 2017 is primed for new life.
Come, Holy Spirit. And bring it on.