Welcome to the New Year! Maybe you feel like you’ve made it only by the skin of your teeth. Maybe you’re not looking forward to the new year at all – it holds only dread and burden and fears and sickness and overwhelming responsibility. Maybe the bills loom large. I’ve had mixed feelings as the year turned myself.
But at Tate Britain this week I saw Jacob Epstein’s ‘Jacob and the Angel’ and it’s formed an image in my mind that I can’t shake. Wrestling with a being more powerful than himself, he was broken and overwhelmed. Seeking the blessing for himself, he was brought to the end of himself. And there he hangs, limp and spent in the arms of a powerful angel who looks directly at him – his face only inches away, as Jacob himself stares heavenward, still seeking mercy from on high.
I’ve wrestled my way through 2014. I’ve fought, hung on, desperate, seeking. But today I wonder if I haven’t also been brought to the end of myself for the same purpose. God wants to carry me. God wants to put me in a position of receiving, of needing and utterly depending on his help. God doesn’t want me charging across the river into 2015 to face the challenges and fears on my own. He is prepared to break me, to wound and pain me, in order to bring me into blessing.
So this morning I find myself starting as (I hope) I mean to go on. God, I don’t find any joy in my heart this morning. Would you put some there? I don’t know what decision to make about this or that – please guide me and cause me to make a wise decision. Lord, I’m tired and fatigued. Would you give me your strength and healing? Lord, I’m caught up in my own needs. Please turn my eyes outwards. Lord, I’m discouraged. Give me hope. Lord, I’m afraid. Fill me with courage…
And it goes on.
Oh Lord, if it is true that you want to carry me – and indeed have always wanted to carry me – please give me the grace to yield and be carried by you. Don’t let me be a willful child, refusing to eat of the feast you have set before me. This year you have opened your table of grace to me. You invite me to your house, to church and to your people, and you have given me a place among them. You have promised to meet me there. This year you have set before me your cup and bread and told me to ‘take, eat, for this is My body which is given for you… this is my blood, which is shed for you.’ And you said you’d strengthen me, and live in me as I commemorate your death as you instructed. In so many ways, you have showed me the means of grace, the way you wish to bless. Give me the wisdom to come to you on your terms.
Give us all the grace to come and be carried.
So I pray as you read this that you will also know God’s love and grace carrying you into this New Year. His arms are strong enough for you and all your burdens. His grace is enough.