Episode 1. The Year in Review
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Here we are in that week between Christmas and New Year. A time for looking back and a time for looking forward. So – looking back on it, how did this year go? Join Berni Dymet in looking back on …
Well, here we are in that funny little week of what often feels a bit like suspended animation … this week between Christmas and New Year. For many, it’s a time of rest. But also a time for looking back and reflecting on the year that’s been. So – looking back on it, how did this year go for you?
It’s great that you can join me again today, right here, on “A Different Perspective”. I always think that this week between Christmas and New Year, it’s an interesting week. The big rush leading up to Christmas, well, that’s over. Christmas Day is gone and New Year’s Eve is almost upon us. The days are ticking down and another year’s over with yet a new one just about to begin.
For many of us this week is a week of rest – a time to reflect on the year that’s just been. Where did the time go? Here we are at the end of another year, already.
If I were to ask you, “What sort of a year did you have?” How would you answer? I mean looking back, really, what sort of year did you have? If you had to sum up your year and compare it to all of the other years you’ve lived, where would it land on the scale of things?
My year, well, it started off for me in India. It was in a dusty, poor village, visiting a school there for the Dalit children, the untouchables. Kids who would never had received an education except for the Christian ministry that gave it to them. Beautiful, wonderful kids and I had a great privilege to baptise fifteen new believers in Jesus right there in the middle of India.
The thing that really sticks with me from that trip right at the beginning of this year was standing in the middle of one of the poorest parts of this village. It was dusty. There were little huts. The floors were of dirt. The bathroom was this black little plastic thing wrapped around a few sticks with bucket right in the middle of the village. And when I said, “Where’s the toilet?” Well, the answer was, “This”.
At a certain time of the day, the men would go out and use the fields as a toilet. And at certain times of day, the women would go out and use the fields for toilets. There was an old man there with a crutch and he had sores on his leg. The people were so poor – no water, no health, an incredibly low life expectancy. And I stood there in the middle of this little village trembling, shaking. It was all I could do not to cry at the condition these people lived in.
That set the scene for me for the New Year, the context.
On a global scale, this year has been a year where millions of children have died of starvation. It’s been a year of terrorism, of wars, of bombings – people dying needlessly because of their hatred of others and not just hatred but neglect.
While those of us who live in the affluent west, by and large, have plenty, countless others are going without. I wonder how people would feel who lost a loved one this year in a war through terrorism? My heart goes out to them.
What I’m talking about here is the whole issue of balance and perspective, millions of children. Imagine being a parent of at least one of the kids that died or the brother or the sister or the aunty or the uncle of just one. Now, multiply that misery by millions – it’s just inconceivable; the amount of pain and suffering and hurt and loss.
Now, it’s one thing to talk about that global scale, that macro, the big geopolitical forces that are out of our control. But the global scale is the sum of seven and a half billion or so individual stories, isn’t it? People just like you and me, people who’ve had a good year or a bad year or maybe an appalling year.
So how was your year? On a scale of one to ten, how will you rate this last year for you? The question is: what scale or measure should you use?
The first one that we could always use is the scale of pain.
If you’ve suffered the loss of a loved one, if you’ve suffered some terrible injustice, if you’ve seen someone die in your life, if you’ve been retrenched or if your marriage has fallen apart or if your kids have ended up on drugs, if something like that has happened in your life this past year, it doesn’t matter how well everything else in your life went, chances are, you’d rate this year as pretty terrible.
It’s a funny thing. A job could be going well, we can have enough food to eat, we can be healthy but we lose a loved one or a relationship breaks down, just one bad event and grief overwhelms us. I mean, who knew something like some of these bombings in Iraq would be going on? If you knew someone who was killed in a car accident, that sort of really bad event that makes for a terrible, terrible year, doesn’t it?
But what about if we don’t have that really bad event? What if we didn’t have one of those, praise God, this year. What measure would you use then to assess how your life has gone this year?
It’s a funny thing. It’s a general level of satisfaction, maybe. We kind of look at our relationships and our family and our work and our finances, some really exciting things may have happened. Maybe we renovated the house or you bought a new car.
Then there’s the spiritual dimension. We somehow lump all those things together and then we say, “Well, on a scale of zero to ten, I had a six or I had an eight or I had a two.”
Now, you might be thinking, “Berni, why are you looking back?” Well, my hunch is that mostly, we live life day-by-day and we don’t really think about it. It just ticks by. The minutes, the hours, the days, the weeks, the months, then the years and then it’s the end of the year. And all that time when we’ve been doing what we did just to get by. We shouldered our responsibilities. We went to work, we brought money in, we put food on the table, we kept the house running and then we reacted to situations.
Good situations, we reacted with joy. Bad situations, we reacted badly (sometimes) and we lump all of that into a bit of a holiday and entertainment and escape and rest and that’s it. That’s life, isn’t it? This is kind of how it all plugs together.
But hang on, where is it all going? What does it all mean really? Is life just slipping away like each little grain of the sand in the hourglass or is our life meant to make a difference?
This week on “A Different Perspective”, I think we need to look back before we can look forward – to take stock, to take inventory.
If you’ve got a piece of paper and if you drew a line down the centre and if on the left hand side, you had a column for all the pluses, all the positives, all the wonderful things. And on the right hand side, you wrote all the negatives, the red side of the ledger, all the bad things that happened. I wonder what that would look like. I wonder whether that wouldn’t be a useful exercise for you to do.
Tomorrow on the program, we’re going to be looking at the things that maybe we would have done differently. So I encourage you to get that bit of paper, to list down the good, the bad and the ugly. And let’s have a chat again tomorrow about some of the things that we could have done differently.
The Apostle Paul, a few thousand years ago, in one of the letters that he wrote that’s recorded in the New Testament called 1 Corinthians. He says this, chapter 7, verse 29.
Our time is short.
His point is that we really need to make it count. We need to use our time wisely. We need to have a life that makes a difference.
I think this funny little week between Christmas and New Year, when we have one eye looking back and one eye looking forward. Isn’t it a great time to sit down, to take a blank piece of paper, to draw a line down the centre and have the pluses on one side and the minuses on the other? And just think about the life that you’ve been living this last twelve months. Just think and reflect upon the year and what’s gone.
We can’t change what’s been. We can’t go back and undo something that we did or redo something that we would have loved to have done differently.
But I will tell you that looking forward – time is short. How long do you have left on this earth? Ask yourself, how long do I have left, an hour, a day, a week, a month, a year, ten years, fifteen years, twenty, forty years? How many more Christmases? How many more New Years? How many more birthdays? Answer is: we just don’t know.
Time is short! Your life – the way that you live, the things that you do, the stuff that you spend your energies on – will they count? Will they make a difference? And what measure do you apply to say, ‘Well, last year was a great year’?
My theory is that as each of us reflects on the year that’s just been, we’ll all discover some blessings that God gave us along the way.