… but Hope
Smiles from the threshold of the year to come
Whispering, ‘It will be happier.’

– Lord Alfred Tennyson
So it’s 2019.

What does the New Year mean for you? I find it strange, this arbitrary date around which so much turns. I’ve been reading a book by Winnipeg troubadour Steve Bell, the Christmas instalment of the Pilgrim Year series, and he remarks how it would seem more accurate to observe another year, as opposed to a new one. After all, what really changes? We make resolutions that fail by the end of the week. The news stories–both tragic and absurd–have not magically become more hopeful. Poverty is not erased. Work is not more fulfilling. Our bodies do not become slimmer or our aches vanish. So why new?

Because newness is essential to our lives. Because amidst the another-ness of life, we need to be reminded that things can change, even if it’s just us–becoming wiser, more patient, more open to the possibilities around us. “By definition,” writes Steve Bell, “newness is not dreary repetition. The mere suggestion of newness arouses anticipation born of hope for fresh possibility and even delighted surprise.”

Do you have the eyes to see freshness and delight? Perhaps newness is not so much an observable fact, but an attitude, a willingness to choose hope in the midst of evidence to the contrary.

Here’s a personal example. Last year this time, I was neck-deep in revisions to my first book, gazing at the parts of my brain-child scattered around me like the unassembled appendages of Frankenstein’s monster. I was tempted to despair. How many years had I been working on this story? How many times had I returned, over and over again, with the realization that something wasn’t working and needed to be changed… again?

And yet today, I’m celebrating the release of that book, together with some delightful surprises of praise from those who have already read it. The physical copy stands on my bookshelf, a trophy of perseverance. I look at it and wonder how it got there, and I’m reminded of not a single herculean effort, but rather a cumulation of small steps forward. The heavy sigh, as I returned to re-edit a scene. The courage of stepping out to contact a potential illustrator when three had already fallen through. Farideh’s patience as she agreed to do another revision. The discipline to file that tedious piece of paperwork. A gracious friend, willing to help with a technical issue. The small moments add up like pearls on a string, and slowly, the daunting to-do list dwindles.

I have many people to thank for that, not least the friends and family who encouraged me along the way and held me to my task. It was a hard year, but I know God gave me strength to start from a perspective of hope: not “if” but “when.” And as I remember where I came from, I can look forward with anticipation to the possibilities ahead.