I still clearly and distinctly remember the stress and anxiety associated with the first day of a new semester of school.
Nothing inspires panic in a student’s heart quite like the first glimpse of the syllabus for the coming session of academic adventures. As one looks over the list of assignments, it is extremely difficult to differentiate one project from the next. Instead, they all bleed together to form a single terrifying monstrosity that is bearing down upon you, threatening to suck the very life out of your existence.
One would think that after more than two decades in school, the tremors of terror inspired by a new syllabus would disappear, but even thinking about it in this moment, I feel my heart beating a little bit faster and feel my chest tightening. I find that turning the page from one calendar to another tends to inspire similar sensations.
I realize almost nothing truly changes when we pass from one year to another (other than the rage-inducing task of adjusting digits in the year column when dating things). There is, however, a subtle feeling of accomplishment that comes with closing out a calendar.
In a very real way, it represents the conclusion of all of the tasks, projects and responsibilities of the previous year. For a brief moment, we get to experience the relief that comes from the completion of an ambitious project, which each year certainly is. In many ways, it’s similar to the completion of a semester of school. Good, bad or indifferent, it is finished. The weight of what was is gone.
There is, however, no rest for the weary. The conclusion of one year immediately gives way to the beginning of another. And while I am cautiously optimistic about what lies ahead, part of me feels exceedingly unprepared to step into it.
I read a meme the other day that pointed out that this year is 2022, which phonetically is 2020 II. I’m fairly certain I speak for most of us when I say that none of us is overly eager to retake that particular course.
The truth, though, is I’m not really all that worried that 2022 is going to be a “bad” year. Regardless of the numbers we attribute to a year, each and every one of them will contain some level of struggle and some level of success. Such is life.
My struggle is more with the weight of what lies ahead. The “syllabus” for the coming session has already begun to be put together. As I peruse the new calendar, I see 365 distinct “to-do” lists that demand my attention and effort. It’s not so much that I’m worried about the outcome as I’m wondering if I have the strength and stamina to do it all again. Syllabus shock strikes again.
I’m well aware of Jesus’ teachings on worry. I know feelings of stress and anxiety do very little to make anything better, although they can serve as strong motivators to get things done. I don’t know of a single paper on which someone got a better grade by wringing their hands, nor can I think of a test on which a person got more points by fretting.
In the end, we plan, prepare and perform as best we can while we can and trust God with the outcome. At some point, we have to take a deep breath and remember the God who walked with us through what came before will be faithful to walk with us through what’s to come.
In Proverbs 16:19, Solomon writes, “In their hearts, humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.” Perhaps this was a lesson he learned from his father, as this echoes the words of David in Psalm 37:23-24. It reads, “The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him; though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord holds him with his hand.”
The coming year is filled with potential and opportunity, but potential and opportunity carry inherent responsibility and risk. It’s easy to become overwhelmed when all considered together. We can step into 2022 with confidence, putting our best foot forward, knowing that though it may not go as we plan, God will accomplish his good purposes in and through us. It’s time to turn the page and trust the Lord.
The Rev. Jeremy Myers is the lead pastor of First Baptist Church in Seymour. Read his blog at jeremysmyers.com. Send comments to [email protected].