Every time the first day of January comes ringing in, I imagine a tape being rewinded. The entire year is one long movie, or the recorded reading of a novel, and when December 31st comes around only to morph into January 1st, after the negatives of the reel have been spun all out of whack, the 90s Kid that is New Year’s Day comes around with a ballpoint pen to wind it all back up nice and proper, and it’s ready to play again. The best part, or worst, depending on how you look at it, is the novel or the movie is different every time. It’s not exactly a fresh start, but it’s the restarting of a similar process (twelve months, one year) with differences in attitude, persona, and setting.
It’s a shame that I brought in the New Year with tears. New Year’s Eve was so much fun, but I found something out that broke my heart before the first hour of the New Year had passed. Remember how I said my family goes through battle after battle after battle? Well, the New Year doesn’t seem to change that.
This may seem rather odd and maybe even cynical, but I honestly don’t see the new year as a fresh start. I see life as one long continuous journey that doesn’t really ever start over or refresh, but rather it’s a divine adventure that’s constantly changing, throwing surprises and obstacles at you as you travel with or without the greatest Companion in the universe. It’s a story of daring feats, amazing miracles, and romance. If I were to look at one point in life where you could have a fresh start, that would be every time you wake up in the morning; after all, that’s when God’s mercies are refreshed, when they’re new (Lamentations 3:22,23). It’s not that I dislike thinking of the new year as a new start…I just don’t think that way.
Anyway. New Year’s Eve was definitely refreshing. My entire family was together, eating food, exchanging stories (including the time I crashed into a cornfield on my way to the Brock’s, the time I parallel-parked into a telephone pole…you get the idea), playing all sorts of card games, and even venturing into the realm of charades. We watched the ball drop, and I realized how happy I was not to be in that crowd packed like sardines in Times Square. The Rockefeller Tree Lighting was experience enough for me. Too many people! Once the ball dropped, my siblings, cousins, and I all ran out onto my Aunt Joan’s front porch, banging wooden spoons against metal pots and pans, screaming “Happy New Year!” into the cold winter night.
And then, after watching Billy Joel’s performance, my family and I headed home. Dad and I were the only ones who stayed up until one, and then he went to bed. I’d had a burden lying on my heart for a couple of days, but it was then when I discovered the burden was real, not just some worry I had made up. I sat there in my living room, crying my heart out to God. This burden felt like it was the final straw, like its repercussions could very well rip our family apart and Satan would win. I was so angry…not at God, but at those who act as avenues for Satan to wiggle himself into our lives, especially when people like me and my mother are trying to keep it together. I wasn’t even crying for me…I was crying for my family.
I fell asleep in the big chair, my Bible clenched to my chest. I hadn’t even opened it that night…I just needed it with me. When I woke up this morning, I didn’t feel that much better. I sat in the chair, sleepily watching Kickin’ It with Jimmy as he got ready to go butcher a pig with Dad (yes, that is a completely normal occurrence in both my house and my community), thinking about how it was a brand new day, a brand new year, and I was already burdened. After sitting there like a sack of potatoes for about thirty minutes, I trudged up the stairs to where Mom was watching Open Range in French because she does amazing things like that. Flopping down on her bed commenced an hour long conversation that was much needed…she was aware of the burden, and had been long before I ever was.
It was one of those conversations where I was tired and emotional and way too concerned with everything to really evaluate what I wanted. I felt like I just wanted to be hopeless. But then, as I was speaking to Mom, I found, no matter how hard I tried or how desperate I was, I could not actually feel completely, 100% hopeless.
“Wow, Hunter, that’s great. You must have a very optimistic spirit.”
Not that optimistic. No amount of optimism can keep someone from being beaten down hard enough that they become desperately hopeless. Humans feel too much to be that easily persuaded of the existence of hope beyond themselves. No.
I can’t be hopeless, because I have the ultimate hope. Now, I’m not saying I’m always happy (this is obvious) and I’m not saying I’m always optimistic (there are days when I wake up and hate the world and feel like staying in bed), but in my times of despair, when burdens are heavy and yokes are cumbersome, I cannot completely lose hope. At all. Even during the first semester, when I was convinced that I wouldn’t make it through the first month let alone the first semester, I knew it would all work out in the end, even if I was allowing myself to forget who God is, what He’s done not just for me but for humanity, and who I am in Him. I’m in too deep; I can’t pull myself outside of this impenetrable hope that only God can give. Granted, I’m not indestructible; I’m human, but God is God.
After our conversation, the burden no longer plagued me. I made myself presentable and decided to splurge and take Mom and Gracie out to lunch. We went to Bill’s Diner, one of those wonderful mom-and-pop diners that smell like my grandma’s house and have some of the best diner food around. We saw people we knew; we ate burgers and roast beef sandwiches with apple turnovers and cannolis; we drank hot chocolate from porcelain mugs and sipped Pepsi from dinner glasses. It was slow-paced, uncrowded, without a care in the world. It was nice.
Gracie, Jimmy, and I later played Skip-Bo (yes, again, I love that game) and then went outside for a little while. I practiced my snowboarding skills in order to build up my coordination (stop laughing), because in two weeks, when I return to the City, I will be going with a bunch of the church people to the Poconos in Pennsylvania to go skiing. Yes, I am going skiing. Have I ever done it? Nope. But it’s okay; I’m really excited 😀
The day ended with Tyler coming over, playing ninja with me and Gracie, Mom, Dad, and Jimmy bringing home ham steaks, sausage, pork loins, and other cuts from the butchered pig, beating Tyler in Wii tennis and bowling, then watching Captain America with everyone eating French toast and home fries. It was warm, comfortable, and just plain awesome.
So despite how it began, God turned it right around when I was too busy looking at my feet. Yeah, there’s a lot of things that need to be worked out, a lot of things that will take time. There’s a ton of attitudes that need to be checked, heaps of rubbish that need sorting, and books that need to be written. But I am, my family is, we all are, especially those who know the Truth about life and about God’s love and power, works in progress. I’m not saying the road is easy, or that it’s without feeling lonely or afraid…but man, it’s the most fulfilling and most importantly adventurous decision you will ever make in your lifetime.