As each year nears its end I become a bit retrospective. I can’t explain it but there’s something cathartic about looking over the last twelve months and being grateful for it all. I used to do this more as a checklist… what did I get done and what did I miss? Did I accomplish the things I set out to do? While helpful as an assessment, it was not particularly rewarding in the spiritual sense. For one thing, that mindset focuses on what I did or didn’t do.
As I ponder the past year I see God’s hand in so many situations and events and relationships. It moves me to tears of gratitude to see Him so intimately involved in my life, and in the life of my family and friends.
One of the great things about looking back is seeing how God has been changing my heart. In these year-end remembrances I see more clearly how God has been directing me, protecting me, providing for me; and I get a better idea of where He is leading me. If I’ve been dragging my feet on something, then see that God has been bringing me to this point for months, I am inclined to start stepping. As I well know: I’m not the sharpest tool in the shed.
Early this year I sensed God telling me my responses to invitations was habitual; as in habitually saying “no, thank you”. I determined this year to more carefully consider these things, and try to say “yes” where I usually said “no”, and to say “no” where I usually said “yes”.
(I should point out a flaw in this approach: in 2016, I said “yes” to quite a bit of ice cream)
The finest results of this experimental shift was a deepening of relationships, making new memories with friends, and increasing gratitude for the life God has given me. Without realizing it, declining invitations had kept me from sharing some very enjoyable activities with people I love and care about. This year I got to
go to a Texas Rangers baseball game
help cut down several sick trees for someone’s neighbor
treat several guys to the movies
talk to people about God
enjoy countless meals with many men who are on their own spiritual journeys
take some guys to a big Christian concert
share with different audiences the amazing things God has done in my life
learn appreciation for waking up early to attend men’s gatherings at church and elsewhere
take on additional responsibility at work (and not grumble… much)
help paint someone’s house
share my (not-yet) world-famous smoked-chicken enchiladas with neighbors and friends
attend an amazing guitar concert (for free!)
take someone to a special Thanksgiving dinner
contribute to some awesome ministries
gain 10 pounds (darn ice cream)
Being willing to say “yes” opened up new aspects of walking out life with God. The absolute best eulogy anyone could give for me would include “he was a friend of God”. I hope and pray to be a good friend to God.
And that is what I see when I look over the past year: God is transforming me into a friend. His friend. It will take quite a while, I imagine, because I’m a former rebel and trouble-maker who learns slowly. But I think it will go much easier if I just keep saying “yes”.