Personal Training for the New Year

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“With the coming of the end, a great bustle and business begins to shake the nations of the world. The time of the end is the time of the massed armies, ‘wars and rumors of war,’ of huge crowds moving this way and that, of men ‘withering away for fear,’ of flaming cities and sinking fleets, of smoking lands laid waste, of technicians planning grandiose acts of destruction. The time of the end is the time of the Crowd: and the eschatological message is spoken in a world where, precisely because of the vast indefinite roar of armies on the move and the restlessness of turbulent mobs, the message can be heard only with difficulty…

To leave the city of death and imprisonment is surely not bad news except to those who have so identified themselves with their captivity that they can conceive no other reality and no other condition.  In such a case, there is nothing but tribulation: for while to stay in captivity is tragic, to break away from it is unthinkable – and so more tragic still.

What is needed then is the grace and courage to see that ‘the Great Tribulation’ and ‘the Great Joy’ are really inseparable, and that the ‘Tribulation’ becomes ‘Joy’ when it is seen as the victory of life over death…

It is not the last gasp of exhausted possibilities but the first taste of all that is beyond conceiving as actual.”

~Thomas Merton, Raids on the Unspeakable..excerpt found in Watch for the Light: Readings for Advent and Christmas

As Thomas Merton writes, Jesus was born in a stable away from the world that crowded together for the census. Away from the machines of individualism, consumption, and fear, I seek to walk farther out to the fields so that I can be one of those who receives the good news of new life born in the most unlikely places.  The magnetism to the world’s highest esteemed products – success and happiness – is strong. In this new year, may I work on my own personal training – strengthening my muscles to break away as I practice…

humility.  In the midst of life, it can be so tempting to let words of praise turn from encouragement to pride. May I keep ever before me the image of the clay jar whose boasting comes from that which is within it rather than the jar itself. In humility, I find rest as the expectations of the day melt…for the world does not need more of ME but more of the LOVE born among us…found within me but not dependent on me.

courage. Too often, it is easy to go with the flow and stay situated in my comfort zone. May I keep ever before me my identity as a child of the God whose preferred mode of entry into the world is in human bodies.  When my heart is broken, may I not let FEAR or SORROW steal the strength to love and live with a whole heart.  May my identity as a follower of the risen Christ spark within me enough courage to RISK being seen as foolish in the eyes of another because I know that fear and its chains are more limiting than “failure.”

simplicity. In a world where more is always assumed to be better, our house begins to bulge at the seams. May I keep ever before me the goal to rid the clutter of abundance in our home so that there is space for silence to be born.  When the clutter remains in piles and I feel anger over the few still moments of the day, may I find that simplicity holds humility’s hand as I trust that I am doing the best I can with the life before me.

One thought on “Personal Training for the New Year

  1. Phil Collier

    Thanks for the reminder – as all of the clocks have been re-set for a new Year of yet greater and greater “achievement.”

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