Looking Backwards

It’s hard not to be glad 2016 is almost over. To paraphrase a line from a favorite old movie, I could draw a year out of a hat, blindfolded, and get a better one. And thus many of us are quite content to watch 2016 in its death throes.

It was an . . . interesting year, to be sure. I don’t think anyone woke up on January 1st and thought we’d be where we are now, personally, nationally, or globally. For me personally, I began 2016 with hopes of becoming the youth minister at my current church — which I did, for all of two months. I never expected to be the senior minister (and frequently said so to the friends who told me I was going to be “promoted”). Our church saw new souls saved and added other members, and praise God for it!

But . . . that rest of the year, though.

This is arguably the most surprised I’ve ever been that a presidential candidate 1) won the election and 2) didn’t get shot in the process. Our country is still feeling the aftermath of one of the most contentious, uncivilized elections in history. That combines with strings of shootings with a diverse group of victims and results in a divided land. Whether you attribute such things to media coverage or to “real” problems, 2016 revealed some of the worst aspects of our fellow Americans (and ourselves).

The Church hasn’t fared much better these past twelve months. United Methodists narrowly avoided schism by (in essence) kicking the can down the road a few more years, all because clergy and laity in a few areas didn’t want to follow their own rules anymore. Celebrity pastors fell amid the latest waves of scandal. The marriage debate continued to sunder ecclesial bodies, and the opening of a replica of Noah’s Ark brought to the forefront not-so-pleasant discussions on origins, the historicity of Genesis, and the complex relationship between science and theism. New surveys came out declaring mine and subsequent generations the most atheistic on record, and other studies proved we are truly in a post-Christendom world.

Meanwhile, people got sick. Some died. We had an epidemic or two.

People were born. Some got married. I was asked how many kids I had five times.

Friends were made. Friends failed to remain friends.

I gave up a return to grad school to remain a pastor. I learned how difficult — and how rewarding — ministry can truly be.

I killed spiders, fought other bugs, and trapped many, many mice. (Seriously, I’m looking for a house to rent at this point.)

I bought a lot of books and read most of them.

Our Bible study still hasn’t finished Revelation, but we have enjoyed a lot of food and fellowship.

Yes, 2016 was an interesting year. It’s not a year any of us are likely to forget, try as we might. But should we try? It wasn’t all bad. Even the horrors exposed problems we can fix and be better than we were before. We can’t erase the past simply because it makes us uncomfortable. We must embrace it, and for the same reason.

A blessed 2017 to everyone! I’ll see you next year.

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