Looking Back on the Year That Was With Gratitude

Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Living God has risen upon you. (Isaiah 60:1)

Dear friends,

We are moving once again to the beginning of a new year. I wrote last year about the practice of looking back on the year that was with an irritation and relief, and how nostalgia seems to take a few years to polish up and make us long for “the good old days” we were so glad to see gone as they ended.

This year, before I made any judgments about 2023, I took my own advice to heart and renewed a practice I began at the beginning of the year, of looking back over journal entries and Facebook posts and photos taken. As of this writing, I’ve only gotten to June, but I suspect I have warmer feelings about 2023 than a lot of folks who are glad to see it end because they only remember the bad of it.

I got to be your pastor again for another year, and I took my kids on bike rides and took so many pictures of them and told so many stories about them. I read a novel in my hammock and preached more than a few sermons that I liked, and learned more about how to care for myself and be kinder and gentler to myself and, hopefully, to others. I grew just a little bit, and Kristen and I celebrated our ten-year wedding anniversary. I found a new preacher whose sermons I liked hearing. At, through, and after the CREDO conference, I grew as a pastor.

And, I suspect you had some growth too. I hope some of it was inspired by one or another of my sermons, but I know God is responsible for the growth in our hearts, so I’ll be glad to hear about growth, however God did it in you. You learned things, and hopefully found ways to be kinder to yourself and others, too.

At the same time, last year was a very difficult year filled with hardship and challenge and loss that we never want to experience again, and I don’t want to discount that. We lost beloved church members and friends we cared about. And alongside that hurt, there was also the good and beauty I talked about earlier.

I hope you can look back on your life in the year that was, not only with a sense of “good riddance,” but also with kindness and gratitude for all the good God has given you, and with gratitude for God bringing you through all its challenges.

With blessings on your memory of the year that was, and on your living of this new one,

Rev. David Schell