Like weary passengers on a ship after a long, grueling voyage, we can spot the shore of 2021 from here. In the throes of 2020’s shakings, many of us yearn for exit routes as we cast hopes like anchors into the foreign land of the new year.
And now, we glimpse the reality of the harbor we longed for, and it’s time to begin preparations to depart this vessel.
As we go down into the cabin where all the luggage is stored, perhaps we accumulated more along the journey than we can realistically fit into the bags we will personally carry off unto shore — habits, worries, character traits that are better left behind. Some are obvious selections, but others not so much. And even the obvious might be slightly out of sync with reality, but how are we to know?
Let’s take some time before disembarking this year, listening to He who simultaneously captained the ship and, yet, is outside the journey. Outside time, and yet meeting us in it. He who spoke the galaxies into being and still whispers in the most private places of the soul.
Can you hear His invitation, summoning you to a private meeting before we dock?
“Where?” you might ask. Where do you usually go to recalibrate your soul? When you’ve lost your equilibrium, or you feel the rising tension inside you, when you can’t hear your own thoughts in a cacophony of opinions, or when you just need to remember who you are?
Inside you is a compass that points you in the right direction, and most likely it has since you were a child. What did you do then when you were overwhelmed or just had time to do what you loved most?
Since she was a little girl, my best friend has needed to sit at her piano and let her fingers explore the keys until the music she plays is in harmony with the emotions inside her. That’s how she hears God. My husband recharges best in the deep pinewoods of Georgia where, as a boy, he would sit for hours and just listen to nature around him. Others go for a walk, organize everything around them, or call someone to process with verbally.
“Thin places” is a Celtic Christian term for “those rare locales where the distance between heaven and Earth collapses,” as Eric Weiner puts it in his spirituality travelogue, Man Seeks God. But those who have been found by the Christ of the Bible realize that God seeks man everywhere, like He did in the Garden of Eden in the dreadful wreckage of the broken trust when we first began to hide.
“Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, ‘Where are you?’” (Genesis 3:8-9)
Here in the last stretch of this year, surveying what to bring forward, where are you? How are you? As you tune into your internal landscape, you are not alone. The same God who formed you in your mother’s womb and gave you your personal propensity for spiritual pleasure, your thin places, is with you right here and now. Would you invite Him to survey your cabin’s content with you, as you ponder what to leave and what to bring forward?
Whether He is familiar to you or this is a foreign step of faith before you leap into the new year, this is a way to help the conversation flow freely between you:
1. Acknowledge His Presence.
We just celebrated Immanuel, God With Us, and yet, it’s so easy to forget just how very present He always is. Simply determine to acknowledge what your deepest core knows is true.
Slowly inhale, hold your breath, praying, “Jesus Christ, You are here,” and then slowly exhale ~ ahhhhhh. Inhale: “You hem me in, ” hold it: “behind and before,” exhale: “and You lay Your hand upon me.” Inhale: “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,” hold it: “too lofty for me to attain,” exhale: “Your hand will guide me,Your right hand will hold me fast.” (Psalm 139:5,6,10)
2. Survey your body.
As you continue slowly breathing, notice any tension anywhere in your body. Feel the healing warmth of Immanuel with you as you release any stress in your jaw, your neck, your shoulders, your back muscles, your stomach, your thighs, your calves, your feet.
If emotions emerge when you no longer clench them so tightly, let them come. You are not alone. This is how you move forward lighter.
“Come to Me, all of you who are tired from carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke and put it on you, and learn from Me, because I am gentle and humble in spirit; and you will find rest. For the yoke I will give you is easy, and the load I will put on you is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
3. Accept your soul, in whatever state it is.
With the caring comfort you would possess if you listened to your dearest friend, welcome what your soul is trying to tell you.. For now, just write down without judgment or censorship the answers that freely come to mind:
- What unresolved hurts are asking to be resolved?
- What longings are waiting to be validated?
- What old bitterness is overdue to be released by decisive forgiveness?
- What relationships are you grateful for?
- What relationships need a fresh evaluation?
- What worries you right now?
- Where in the body do you feel that?
- How do you generally talk to your own soul?
- What do you think God thinks of you?
4. Invite His Spirit to counsel you.
As you glance over what you have written, ask Him to highlight which of these questions are His top priority for you. Keep breathing slowly. Rest in the assurance that He will show you what you need to see.
“For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.” (Matthew 7:8)
Then write down what you sense Him showing you, and commit to ask an accountability partner for their discernment.
Next, ask yourself, “What is the most important question for you?”
And what is His counsel for that?
5. Thank Him for His commitment to always support and sustain you.
You will never have to solve one single problem without His help. You will never have to go through one single moment without Him.
Maybe there were days we forgot that onboard the stormy sailing of 2020, but we can throw that ingratitude overboard and deliberately pack a thankful attitude, a settled belief that He keeps His promises, come what may.
“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.” (Colossians 3:15)
Your body, soul, and spirit are soaking in His Presence. This is one of your “thin places” where heaven and earth embrace. Might I suggest you make it a refuge you often return to for shelter from the temporal storms that are sure to still find us in what lies ahead, to be strengthened by the everlasting arms that hold you always?
As we glide so close to 2021 that we can see plans begin to take form in our calendars, perhaps it seems less foreign than we expected. Perhaps we will even be tempted to think nothing has changed or to invest our confidence in the tangible changes we do see. But we can hold something much more constant in our chest: The unwavering goodness of God calling us to commune with Him in private thin places every day.
“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
Since we are in this together, I would love to hear what He shows you. When we walk off the gangway at midnight, not only will we be aware that He is with us, but we can be sojourners together in the new land.