Sunday, December 30, 2012

Noo Yeah

I've never been one to celebrate New Year's much.

Or any particular recurring date, for that matter.  New Year's just seems like an arbitrary change in the calendar, a practical necessity in order to support our way of enumerating our time in some form.  In reality, 31 Dec - 1 Jan has as much of a difference as 23 - 24 Jun.  (Even worse, for every one of the 12 years I was in school in Singapore, New Year's meant the end of school holidays and the start of a new school year with new textbooks, teachers, expectations and exams.  Not exactly a moment worth popping the champagne over.)

The same goes (believe it or not) with things like birthdays.  Celebrating them just doesn't come naturally to me.  Mind you, I do make it a point to celebrate them as heartily as I can because I believe those I care about should feel special and celebrated at least once a year, although I feel this is largely also due to my inability to make them feel special every day.  But giving birthday gifts and remembering birthdays only comes with a fair bit of deliberate effort for me - a dear friend's birthday can go by forgotten and I wouldn't feel much is amiss, except to feel a little bad I forgot because of what I perceive to be that friend's expectations.  And strangely enough, although my parents celebrated my birthday every year without fail, I never knew when their birthdays were until my teens.  In fact there were a couple of times when my extended family would celebrate my dad's birthday over lunch at my grandfather's and I didn't know it was his birthday until the lunch itself.  (Actually I still don't remember my mum's birthday... apparently it changes every year because hers goes by the lunar calendar.)

If your birthday passed recently and I didn't say anything, I apologise.  :P

Back to the season... The thing I appreciate most about New Year's, really, is that it seems to be the only time of the year (barring the occurrence of huge tragedies or calamities) that other people, i.e. people around me (family, friends, colleagues and total strangers that form the society at large that I'm a part of), stop to think, to contemplate, to consider, to do a little more than just react.  It's the one time in the year when you're 'allowed' by society to not just be focused on being productive and getting by, when you're actually expected to reflect a little.

I can't say that for any other part of the year, but how I wish we would do that more often.

Not that we would celebrate New Year's more frequently than New Year happens, but that I would more frequently be surrounded by friends, colleagues, people I know or only vaguely hear of via Facebook, contemplating and reflecting.  Seeking to be somewhat introspective, looking for inspiration.  How I wish the occasional catch up dinners with friends would consist of more than "so how's work?", "what else have you been up to besides work?" and, of course, the topic that everyone goes to when they can't think of what else to talk about - "have you got any holidays planned?"  I'd love to talk to someone about how or where they feel their life is heading, what passions they have that they haven't found a way to explore, or the questions they ponder to themselves or to God (however random).

A friend of mine told me he and his wife take quarterly retreats.  1 day every quarter (which is a lot more frequent than it sounds!) they both take leave, go on a quiet retreat, spend alone time reflecting, journalling, praying, walking etc with God, and then come together to share, pray some more and spend some quality time together with Him.  Sounds to me almost like a mini New Year's, 4 times a year.

Sure beats once a year.  I'd certainly like to be able to do something like that, although I'm not sure yet how I'd do it.  Setting aside a fixed day to contemplate things just sounds weird to me - I don't even have regular quiet times 'cuz I feel like if I have to schedule a meeting time with God it feels fake and overly official.  Still, while I generally engage in relatively frequent introspection as it is, contemplation has different levels, and in order to see things at a different level, one needs a different type of occasion to do so.  It certainly seems like I could use something that straddles the gap between once-a-year and every-day-or-so

Life is rich.  But that richness, it seems to me, is only revealed when we stop to consider and contemplate.  God is best appreciated when we are in a posture and a context suitable for gazing, pondering, staring in awe, and, well, appreciating.  I make no resolutions in the New Year, because I'd soon forget them, and I am clueless about my life anyway compared to God - I barely even know what needs I have, let alone how to fulfill them.  But perhaps one New Year's wish worth making is that I, and many others around me, would get better at doing this New Year's stuff more frequently, year-round, such that each New Year would really be what I think it is, i.e. an arbitrary tick of the clock - but a tick between 2 years already filled with frequent occasions of wonder, awe, insight and worship.

In any case, Happy New Year's!  May your 2013 be marked with revelations of His faithfulness and steadfast love.


John said...

That second to last paragraph is gold.

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