For me, 2011 has been a time of realizing that, while I'm not old, I'm definitely not as young as I used to be! Two things have brought me to a more serious awareness of my middle age -- having an eighteen year old child as of yesterday (which today I'm realizing has a bonus feature... there's someone to share a bottle of wine with now and then!) and the fact that my recent dizziness issues have meant that there are a lot of things I suddenly can't do with the speed and grace I used to possess.
So I am feeling a sense of solidarity with Jean Vanier, who has reached into his eighties and has come to a sense of peace about life when he is no longer as young and strong as he once was. One of his new year's comments this year resonated with me, as I've had to rely so much on others over the past two months:
As I grow older I am discovering more the gift of my own poverty and weakness. When we are strong we can often do it alone. When we feel weaker, when we live loss and anguish, we are more aware of our need for God, for others, for community. I realize more and more that the only thing that is really important is the new commandment, “Love one another as I have loved you.” May each one of us, and each one of our communities, grow in this love.Poverty and weakness as a gift? How is that possible?? If you've ever been forced, for whatever reason, to rely on the goodness of others rather than on your own strength and abilities, you know how humble, grateful, and loved that can make a person feel. The fact that we all need God, each other and community is too easy to ignore when we are well and strong... but it is always true.
- Jean Vanier, Our Life Together, p. 517
I have come to the end of 2011 with a deep love and appreciation for a husband who uncomplainingly does the grocery shopping and laundry because those jobs make my head too spinny, for family and friends who have driven me around because I can't drive myself, for my girls who have (mostly) taken over the kitchen duties, and for people who have called or dropped by just to lift my spirits.
Then today, some words of Henri Nouwen drop into my inbox:
Imagine all that effort [to defend ourselves against each other, to maintain or increase our power, and to safeguard our own privileged position] being put in the service of peace and reconciliation! Would there be any poverty? Would there be crimes and wars? Just imagine that there was no longer fear among people, no longer any rivalry, hostility, bitterness, or revenge. Just imagine all the people on this planet holding hands and forming one large circle of love. We say, "I can't imagine." But God says, "That's what I imagine, a whole world not only created but also living in my image."
As 2011 comes to a close, I give thanks for you, my friends and family, and the way I see you living in God's image, and I pray that living simply, in peace and reconciliation, can be our greatest gift to the world in this new year a-comin'. May we, and our communities, continue to grow in love!