My husband and I just returned from a New Years house party we attend every year. The same group gathers in a Rappahannock County cabin, spending a few days to do … well, not much, just be together. The friendships span nearly 40 years.
Perhaps it is because we are all getting old(er)—or perhaps it has always been true and we just didn’t name it—that I see the beauty of these days is in telling our stories. How has life changed this year, and why? What are the disappointments, the learnings, the fears, the joys? Who am I today? What are the dreams for the year ahead? And because we know the stories from last year and the years before, it feels like we are accountable to each other for being vulnerable.
Nowadays, our New Years get-togethers include loving admiration of the tree planted in memory of one of us, and a pat of the brass frog that marks where the ashes of another of us rests. They are reminders of how blessed we are to be intertwined in each others’ stories.
One thing I know for sure about the makeup of humankind: we are hardwired to live in relationship with others. And yet we often veer away from intimacy and vulnerability because it requires courage. These storytelling times are exercising that God-given courage to be real, right down to our shiny souls. Of course we experience them in other close connections as well, but I place great value in these New Years Eve experiences because they seem like freeze-frames of who we really are, how we can live, of the lives God wants for us, and of our relationship with God.
So my New Years prayer for all of us is to find and cherish moments to deeply listen. Turn off the background noise, remove those damned earbuds, put down our Apple whatevers: there are important stories waiting to be heard. And may we receive the courage to tell our own and have it received with love. It’s God’s great idea.
Another thought: isn’t this exactly what happens in worship at St. Alban’s?