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The Promise and the Prison

Every blank page holds a promise: the promise of unwritten words, of undrawn lines. An unmarked space becomes a canvas of hope. But a blank page can often be a kind of prison as well: writers stumble in the dark for language that never comes, artists wait for shapes that never materialize. As I type these words on a friend’s laptop, miles away from my home, I know that I am fairly well bound to this page’s blankness.

I want to say great, high, lofty things about the promise of the new year, about the way that the whole world can seem so fresh and full during the dawn. I want to talk brightly about how God’s mercies seem especially new around January, but the words just don’t seem to want to come. The old, dull, lifeless words hang around instead, like ghosts that don’t frighten anyone anymore.

This year, a couple days before Christmas, I made the long, winding drive over the Black mountains from Carolina to Kentucky—alone—which gave me a rare chance to reflect on my version of 2005: a hard year, rife with trouble and challenge; but a good year, full of success and broadened accomplishment.

I’m sure you have your own version of 2005, with its requisite achievements and failures. Your year may have been alarmingly monotonous, a series of events similar to the ones that played out the year before. Or maybe it was a year of such transition that it will stain everything that follows with its particular mark. Maybe this year you got closer to God than you’ve ever been, or maybe you wandered from the well-lighted way and stumbled through the dark alleyways of your own selfishness. Maybe, like me, you found that you did a bit of both.

However your last year played itself out, there is a new one on the horizon: a new year, with its own promises and its own prisons, chances to move ahead or to fall behind, or both. As it approaches, you have an opportunity to take hold of more of God’s grace; to kind of press “reset” on your life, if that’s what you need, or grace to add wisdom to accomplishment.

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As I look forward to the calendar year, I hold its blankness up to Jesus, hoping that his preferences would have their way in my life. I pray that his kingdom would come, that it would be here, at hand, like he said it would be, available and open. And if this year brings more prison than promise, I hope that it would give me the change to be bound to God and his ways, not to me and mine. And I hope the same for you, that grace would abound in your heart and in your mind and in life.

Happy New Year.

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