In the previous six nights we had stayed at five different places. And last night – the first night of the new year, was the least comfortable bed of the five. I couldn’t get to sleep. Possibly watching five films and two documentaries back to back during an 11 hour flight had also left me slightly over-stimulated and so my mind was not going anywhere near rest and relaxation ….
And as my sleeplessness continued, my panic about the year ahead grew. I began to think of all that is due to happen in the next 12 months. I then added in a number of ‘what if’ scenarios just because. And even though I know from hard experience that life almost never sticks to my plan, I was feeling the burden of all of those not yet given days and problems and situations and relationships and outcomes.
The year ahead, 2018, took on the shape of a sheer rock face. A rock face which I needed to climb without ropes, equipment or a buddy. A rock face which if I fell off it would all be over.
I’m a follower of Jesus Christ and one of the things he taught his followers to do was to pray – to talk to God about all that was going on in their lives and their world. And so I tried to pray. And the only word that came out was ‘help’.
Your rock face probably looks different to mine. It may be job changes or challenges, or unemployment that makes that rock so hard to climb. Or maybe you have family situations that feel overwhelming. Perhaps you are worried about your children or health issues. I’m feeling all of the above and also I am facing some things which in the cold light of day another person might describe as opportunities, but to me on day 1 of this new year they just looked terrifying.
And as I lay in my bed feeling like sleep would never come because how could it, when I had so much to do to survive this next year, I began to wonder if my sheer cliff was an accurate image? Would I actually be left with nothing if things didn’t go as I hoped? If I didn’t get the job, or if the worst thing happened, would that actually be the end of everything?
Well no. All it would mean was that I’d tried something and it hadn’t worked. And there is no shame in trying and failing. That’s pretty normal. You go for the job and you don’t get it. But you haven’t lost anything in the trying. You do your best at parenting and your kids still experience tough times. That’s not going to end things. You just try again.
And as I worked through the various scenarios that had been scaring me I realised that if my pride could cope with stuff not working out as I thought or hoped it might, then there wasn’t really a problem.
I started to see that 2018 is not a cliff face with a do or die alternative. Yes, there are some pretty hefty challenges ahead, but actually it’s more of a walk up a steep mountain, and there is a path. If things don’t work out I won’t actually crash out completely. I’ll just stop for a while and get my breath back.
I shared these musings with a friend this morning. She wrote back ‘we’ll climb it together. I’ll belay for you and you can belay for me. I totally understand your image. One step at at time.’
I had forgotten that bit. We’re not facing this year alone. You and I, we’ve got friends who are heading up that hill too. We can walk beside each other and sometimes it’ll be my turn to have the energy and enthusiasm and take the lead, and sometimes you’ll have to encourage me to keep going when I’m finding it hard. And while I’m on the subject of friends I just want to give a shout out to the people who stand by me and have done in the past year, and who I know will be there in the months to come. You are wonderful. And I couldn’t do it without you.
So that was the answer to my ‘Help’ prayer. A changed perspective. My situation didn’t change. The difficult things I could see ahead, they are still there, but it’s not a cliff face. And I’m not alone. And all we can do is our best.
So let’s get going.
I’ll see you on the hill!