Nothing objectively changes with the coming of a new year, but it can certainly be a great time for self-reflection and personal change. Evaluating the previous year can give us ideas about where we want to go next. Setting goals can lead to hope of something new happening and energize us to pursue life with renewed vigor. After being stuck in a rut for a while, this is exactly what I needed. I have found a sense of hope in this “fresh start” that comes with the changing of the calendar, and as I reflected I found a renewed appreciation for the gift of life.
As 2017 was coming to a close I was feeling pretty unthrilled about how life had played out over the year. I hadn’t done anything too exciting or adventurous. I hadn’t accomplished as much as I had hoped to. I did put in some effort, but honestly, I also wasted a lot of time. There was a mediocrity that seemed to permeate my view of life. Then I watched the Lord of the Rings, an epic tale about a great journey taken to overcome evil, and something clicked. The characters from this story experienced many different things that led to them fulfilling a greater purpose and having amazing stories to tell. I suddenly realized how amazing and precious life is.
My own life, as mediocre as it may feel at times, took on meaning as I viewed it through this lens of an epic journey. I thought about all the things I had experienced on this voyage of life. All the trials, the joy, the pain, the love, and everything else that has made up my experience on this earth paints a picture greater than I could possibly imagine. All these things have formed me into who I am and have given me a story to tell.
I was thinking about the greatest story ever, the one of Jesus written about in the gospels. Not only did He redeem the world from sin and death, Jesus shows us the value of life even amidst great pain. He experienced it all; poverty, hunger, suffering, and death. Yet, he emerged from all of that pain into a new and glorious life. A lot of people miss this. They think that God should just eliminate suffering. Instead, He suffers with us and gives meaning to our lives. He shows us that even our suffering will lead to life, just like a woman in labor suffers greatly to deliver a child. That child will likely bring her more joy than she thought possible. Though I might not be where I want to be right now, eventually I will end up where I’m supposed to be. At that moment I will realize how God has given me a better gift than I could have ever imagined or expected, and I will realize that I had to go through everything I did. It will all be worth it.
Every life is special, and every life deserves a chance. Before my accident, I remember thinking how I would rather die than be paralyzed. Now that I’m paralyzed, I’m more thankful to be alive than I ever was. I used to think the pro-life people were crazy. I bought the lie that they just wanted to tell women what to do or that they were trying to tell people how they should live. Now I see it’s not about that at all. It’s about valuing the amazing gift of life. Who are we to prevent someone else from getting to experience it? I’ve heard all kinds of reasons why life should be taken. “The child will be born into poverty.” “They are in a lot of pain. Maybe it would be better if they just ended it.” “What kind of life can someone who’s disabled expect to live?” The truth is that the gift of life is precious whether we perceive it that way or not.
So what does all this have to do with evaluating where we’re at and setting goals? Imagine you took the time to go buy fabric, design a sweater, and sew it together to give to your friend as a gift. When you finally had the chance to give it to your friend they thanked you, but it was hard to tell what they really thought. Now imagine that you were out for a walk at a local park, you ran into your friend, and he was wearing the sweater you gave him. How would that make you feel? It’s the same way with the gift of life. The greatest amount of gratitude we can show is by using it. I can only imagine how amazing God feels when He sees us fully embracing the life He gave us. When we take the time to evaluate our path and set goals we are saying, “I value this life I’ve been given and I want to use it the best I can.” Now, I’m not saying that in an, “eat, drink, and be merry,” sort of way. There are definitely proper ways to use things. If you found out your friend was using the sweater you gave him as an oil rag, you might not be so thrilled. What I am saying is that we shouldn’t “bury our talents.” We should fully utilize what we’ve been given.
Life is amazing. Maybe it’s not always what we want or expect it to be. Maybe we won’t ever get to experience a diet of purely ice cream or be covered in a pile of puppy dogs. But maybe that’s exactly what makes life wonderful. If we can just learn to see the big picture, maybe we would appreciate it more. We just have to see that it’s not a moment-by-moment feeling that makes it that way. It’s only when we see the big picture that it becomes clear why life is so grand. The beautiful thing about a new year is that we have another chance to change our perspective.
William Joseph Scheremet