Each morning as I leave my home for a sunrise walk on a nearby Cape Cod beach, I say to myself in tones low enough not to awaken wife and my neighbors, “This is the day that God has made, and I will rejoice and be glad in it.” I repeat this mantra when I step out of the car in the beach parking lot. Then, I ask God, “What new possibilities will come my way today? Let me be ready for the adventure ahead.”
This same question and affirmation reflect the spirituality of the New Year. We don’t know what lies ahead. But, as we live with the nightmare of the pandemic, protests related to systemic injustice, and the chaos of national politics, our prayers of thanksgiving are mixed with hopes for transformation.
We know that we need transformation as persons and planetary citizens. Only new possibilities and the energy and commitment to act on them can bring us wholeness and reconciliation. We know we need to open more fully as persons and as community to divine possibility. We need to heal the soul of the nation and this calls forth our own commitments to personal, relational, and political healing.
God is the moment-by-moment source of possibility and the energy to embody the highest good in the now and the future. God’s vision is intended to expand our vision, agency, and imagination both in the moment and the long-term future. When we open to God’s vision and then act it out in our unique ways as the hands, feet, mind, and heart of God in our setting, God’s vision expands and so does our imaginative agency.
Would it be possible for you to affirm for the year ahead: “This is the year that God has made, and I will rejoice and be glad in it.” Would it be possible to begin the new year with a commitment to ask: “What new and life-transforming possibilities will come my way? Where can I be an agent of personal, relational, and national healing?” And then offer my intentions to God, “ Let me be ready for the adventure of a new year. Let me be your healing companion in all my relationships and responsibilities.”
When my son was a young boy, growing up in the 1980s, the two of us delighted in reading a series of books, entitled “Choose Your Own Adventure.” At each turn of the page, the readers were invited to make decisions that would change the course of the characters’ lives. One choice would lead to a dungeon, the other to a treasure. Early on, these books taught my son that he could make decisions that would shape his life. The important events of his life were not settled by God, genes, environment, or family of origin, but could be shaped in part by his choices. He could choose his own adventure amid the realities of his environment, health condition, and social situation. He learned that while he was not omnipotent, neither was he impotent. In the spirit of psychiatrist and concentration camp survivor Victor Frankl, the two of us learned that they could everything away from a person except the ability to choose her or his attitude and way of responding to life’s circumstances. We could choose moment by moment our attitude toward what we could not change and be part of a larger holy adventure in which small choices could lead to great adventures, and then bring changes to what appeared intractable.
As we begin a new year, I believe that God is the Holy Adventure who invites us to be creative, loving, artistic, and adventurous. God’s creativity births galaxies, little babies, and the human imagination. God says to each person, “surprise me, do something I hadn’t completely anticipated.” God wants you to be a partner in choosing your own adventure for yourself and for our planet.
In the coming year, we are on the edge of many novel holy adventures. Our lives have been cramped in the past year by pandemic, anxiety, and fear, and by the reality of a national leader hell-bent on destroying the foundations of our planet and the nation. Even with hope on the horizon with a vaccine and new national leadership, we can enter the year with dread or hope, or with fear or love.
As we face a new year fraught with novel possibilities, not all of which are comforting, let us open to a deeper vision of the future and role in changing the world. We can, with activist Angela Davis, join with God in seeking to change the things we cannot accept, and then get on with the business of expanding our imaginations and healing the world one act a time.
Bruce Epperly is a Cape Cod pastor, theologian, and author of over 60 books, including “Process Theology and Politics,” “Prophetic Healing: Howard Thurman’s Vision of Contemplative Activism,” “Piglet’s Process: Process Theology for All God’s Children,” and “Mystics in Action: Twelve Saints for Today.”