Like many of you, on New Year’s Eve I watched a ball slide down a pole to commemorate the end of the old and the beginning of the new. Or perhaps you participated in a ceremony that was somewhat more creative. In Atlanta it was a peach instead of a disco ball. But Pennsylvania towns lead the way with many of their own traditions. In Dillsburg they drop a giant pickle. (No, I’m not joking! They actually do this as evidenced in the video below.) In Mechanicsburg it’s a wrench. In Lebanon a 12 foot long piece of bologna is lowered to the ground, probably as some type of cold cut music is played in the background.
Regardless of specific traditions, large crowds of people celebrated the end of a year filled with difficulty, tragedy and all around bad news. Perhaps that’s why celebrating the New Year carried so much excitement! Everybody was really ready for a change this time around.
But wait! Didn’t this same scenario happen last year as well? And when we awoke on the morning of January 1, 2011, weren’t the headlines still all negative? The same economic woes. The same governmental conflicts. The same problems with terrorism. The same lack of morality. To be honest, not much changed from December 31 to January 1—except perhaps that we had more wishful thinking than usual.
I’m not predicting doom and gloom for 2011, but the bottom line is that if we want things to change for the good in our lives, we’d better not rely too much on external circumstances. True change begins from within as we learn to abide in God’s grace.
Like I stated previously, bitterness is like poison to one’s own soul. Bitterness is a control issue as much as anything . . . and control is all about self-will . . . and self-will is the arch enemy of grace.
As I bring this series on bitterness/forgiveness to a close, I would like to challenge you to forgive again and again and again . . . .
Why does Jesus challenge us to forgive seventy-seven fold? Because life offers us so many opportunities to be bitter! Sometimes our outward circumstances don’t change. Sometimes other people don’t change. Sometimes negative thoughts continue to relentlessly flood our minds.
The only way that our hearts will stay tender toward God, the only way that we will abide in His grace, is to continually let go and forgive. This may seem to be impossible at first, but with practice forgiveness becomes a part of who we are.
Is extreme patience toward others required? Absolutely! But where would we be if our God had not shown extreme patience toward each of us? In all of my misery and failure I have yet to exhaust His patience! My guess is that you aren’t much different than me in this regard.
Do we want this year to truly be a better year? Then it’s certainly best for us to leave any bitter roots in 2010, allowing love to sprout in 2011. And this, my friends, is no baloney!
Photo by Anna Bentley