Another year is about to end. Most of us search for some sense of closure at the close of the year. It is a time for new beginnings. And it might even be a moment to declare a few resolutions. But the pains of the past continue to keep company with us by stealthily sliding under the entrance to the New Year.
Baggage from the past barricades the entrance to the new beginnings that January 1st symbolically brings for everyone. Is there hope for change? Or are we destined to remain trapped in the hurts and disappointments of life? I read some ideas on this subject this week by Helen Cepero in her excellent work entitled: Journaling as a Spiritual Practice: Encountering God Through Attentive Writing.
Cepero urges us to name our wounds and grieve them. She is even of a mind that a painful past can bless us and others. She shares the following examples in her book:
A wife whose husband died of AIDS finds herself returning to the AIDS clinic to provide comfort. A breast cancer survivor listens and responds on her blog to those in chemotherapy. Someone who attempted suicide works the midnight shift on the suicide prevention hotline. A recovering addict speaks words of tough love as a sponsor of another addict who is struggling to stop using. Each of them is letting a painful past bless themselves and others.
The pains of life are going to follow us like a lost puppy into the New Year. That is reality. And reality is our friend. The shift in the calendar from 2011 to 2012 really does not mean much. Or does it?
Perhaps we can begin 2012 with a resolve to use our painful experiences as a launching pad to bless others. As a noteworthy example, I am totally convinced that the process of grieving the loss of someone close to us is not complete until we have used that experience to compassionately touch another person’s life. I am resolved to begin a New Year by asking some important questions.
How can I use the painful experiences I have dealt with to help others? Who is in my immediate sphere of influence that is struggling today? Am I going to whine or consider the needs of others above my own?
There is no point in obstructing the entrance to the New Year. The pains and disappointments from the past will blow right past any fortification I attempt to construct. But that is really fine. I will just allow such unrelenting company join me on an important mission to the touch the lives of those around me.