On January 1st, I followed a tradition I learned from my spiritual director that has helped to set the tone for my year so far. Unlike resolutions that, statistics show, are mostly broken in a few weeks and largely forgotten by year’s end, this practice has staying power. Early in the morning after my usual prayer, I settled in for 20 minutes of quiet listening. I gently set the intention to name the coming year. This was a meditative, contemplative time, waiting to hear the voice of the Spirit. There was no pressure and no strict set of rules to follow. I simply paid attention to my breath in silent reflection, returning to that awareness when I found my mind wandering to what I needed to do that day or something that had troubled me the night before. I was present, as best I could be in that moment, to myself and God. Just slowing down that way was a gift in itself — a simple, stress-reducing, soul-soothing few minutes to be with Jesus, the beloved, who longs to spend that time with each of us.
To my delight, a name for the year emerged toward the end of this micro retreat. That name was “Light.” I already had a candle lit, so the first thing I did was to write the word in large letters on a white board in my office, and I drew a large candle beside it. Giving an idea physical form — making it tangible in some way — helps us to engage not just our intellect, but our emotions and imagination, too. Did you ever notice how when something is called into your awareness, you start to see it everywhere? You know, like if you’re shopping for a new car and there’s a model that you like, they seem to appear everywhere? Well, it’s been just like that for me with the concept of Light. Of course, it is a constant presence in scripture, but now it seems to jump off the page at me in a really inspiring way: Dawn! Hope in the darkness! Radiance! I have a new awareness of the idea’s many dimensions, too. Light is the guide for my feet along the Way, but also the shining lamp that belongs on a stand, not under a bushel basket, and the easy yoke that Jesus invites us to share with Him. Lightness has become the antidote to my heavy moments of pain, longing, or discouragement. It is the reminder that I do not need to be the sun — I don’t have to worry about generating all the energy I need; rather, I am asked to be the moon — reflecting the light of Christ, the true Son, in the world.
New Year’s Day is pretty far in the rear-view mirror already, but a much more meaningful celebration of the new isn’t far off. Maybe you can spend 20 minutes with our Risen Lord on Easter morning, asking for a name for the next 12 months, or perhaps just for the Easter Season, that will bring you closer to God or reveal something about God to you? He is always eager to answer that door if you knock on it. Why not give it a try?