It is a little embarrassing to admit that my number was the lowest of the entire group. My number was a 5.
There are some justifications for my answer such as for every negative event, I was able to see a positive outcome, so that leaves a 50 percent bad and 50 percent good year with a perfectly acceptable number of 5. I know in reality that my number should have been a bit higher, however on this particular night I answered through the lens of "where I am at right now."
You see, New Year's Eve always has me standing on the edge of a cliff looking down into the vast unknown and I have no choice but to jump and see where I land in a year. When I look back at the past year I see painful twists and turns that I didn't expect and life shaping events that drastically changed my life (okay, maybe "drastically" is a bit too drastic of a word).
My perspective that night was so filled with fear of a future that I could not see, predict or control and I was just going to be free falling into the new year.
This "feeling" is not the truth. I know that. Somehow, the next day, I stumbled upon the verses in Isaiah 43:1-2 and I inserted my name in them Feel free to insert your name as you read the verses below:
But now, Rachael, listen to the Lord who created you.
Rachael, the one who formed you says, "Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you.
I have called you by name; you are mine.
When you go through deep waters, I will be with you.
When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown.
When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you."
This word "consuming" led me to read Exodus 2 where Moses comes upon the burning bush. Moses is amazed that the bush is burning in a blazing fire yet not burned up. An angel of the Lord says, "Take off your sandals, for you are standing on holy ground." Then he goes on to tell Moses how there are people in distress and suffering and the Lord's intent is to rescue them but he commands Moses to go and do it for him.
I am reminded that my home has been a place of holy ground Our doors this past year have been open to those wading through rivers of difficulty. It's been a place for others to find reprieve from the fires of life that oppress one's spirit.
So why all this fear inside me?
I believe Moses was afraid too. He protested God's call on his life and began both his protests with the words "WHO AM I . . .".
God answered, "I will be with you. . . . " EXODUS 3:12
When Moses asked, "Who am I?" God's only response with this initial protest was "I will be with you."
Strangely enough that promise eases my fear. Isaiah 43 reinforces this promise by saying the Lord has called me and I am his. Again He says He will be with me. I will not drown in difficulty, I will not be consumed by the troubles of this life.
"For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior."
In the allegory Hinds' Feet on High Places the main character Much Afraid is traveling along the Shores of Loneliness along with her companions Sorrow and Suffering when she succumbs to an encounter with Pride. In her weakest moment she calls out to the Shepherd and he shows up hurling Pride over the edge of the cliff into the sea. It is after this fearful encounter with her own weakness when she proclaims to the Shepherd:
"But I do tell you now with all my heart that you are my Shepherd whose voice I love to hear and obey, and that it is my joy to follow you.
You choose, my Lord, and I will obey."
I don't know if you struggle with fear like I do, but I do know that regardless the same promises remain for you. It's a new year and none of us know what that will look like. It could be better or it could be worse. It could lead you down a path you choose or one chosen for you. We just don't know and really, we don't need to know. But one thing I do know. We will not be alone. Let's hold on to the promises in Isaiah 43. Make them your own. I'm sure at some point we will all need those reminders.
Illustration above is from Hinds' Feet on High Places: an engaging visual journey