Looking Back on 2014

by Dn. Mark Oleynik

1435612_52925733During the last school year my daughter was assigned to list three significant events for each year of her life. Reflecting back on the last year I was reminded of this assignment and decided to refresh my memory of the events of 2013. I proceeded to sit down in front of my personal computer and entered the search phrase, “looking back at 2014.” I immediately realized my error but was surprised that there were more than 17,000 hits that looked back “at the future.” I briefly glanced at a few of the articles in curiosity but mostly it gave me pause to think: if we could look back now at our lives during 2014, what would we find?

With such advanced knowledge of our lives this year we would surely avoid the pitfalls, circumstances, and situations which would cause us pain and grief, wouldn’t we? Certainly, we would choose only those things that would profit us, our children, and our friends both now and hereafter. Although we might still experience sadness and failure during the upcoming year we would be prepared for it. When something would come up, we could make the wise decision.

That’s it: making wise decisions. For some, decision making can be an ordeal. Although something deep within us shouts that life is a series of decisions (moments in truth), we like to put things off; and if there is any way by which we can delay a decision (“I’ll do that when the kids get older”, “I don’t have time”, “that’s too difficult”), or push the responsibility of the decision on to somebody else, we probably wouldn’t hesitate to do so. That is the way many live; dwelling in the valley of indecision. The prophet Joel speaks that, “the day of the Lord is at hand in the valley of decision” (Joel 3:14). Although we may be indecisive, let us not be confused—God will make His decision.

We often begin the new year with the good intent-ions of changing things (lose ten pounds, exercise, more prayer, travel, etc.) but we often lose our enthusiasm and interest after a short while. Nobody ever likes to look back and realize nothing much changed year to year and most especially in their relationship with God. That’s a most sad and sobering thought, but perhaps you can decide now to become God-centered in all you do and really make this year different from years past.

Be grateful for the gifts you have at this very moment. Don’t moan or groan over what you haven’t got. You are alive. You love and you are loved by God. You may be surrounded by dear friends and family who care for you. It is better to want what you have than to have what you want. “Enter into His gates with thanksgiving and into His courts with praise: be thankful unto Him, and bless His Name” (Psalm 100:4).

Something else you can do is to learn to master your thoughts. Remember the saying, “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.” Start each day with Metropolitan Philaret’s prayer especially asking God to guide you in all your “thoughts and feelings.” Stop the thought wrestling and see Christ in the person you meet at the checkout line, at coffee hour, or in the driver who just cut you off in traffic. Don’t let your thoughts push you around, but rather take the initiative and push your thoughts to where they result in goodness.

Another good thing is to do something (or something more) for others regardless of your age. The self-centered person is usually miserable. Invest something of yourself in others every day. Our parish has many ministries dedicated to helping others in some way. If you don’t find something here then reach out into our community (take to heart our mission to “Build up the Church beyond our Parish”). Scripture tells us that, “For even the Son of Man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister” (Mark 10:45). Follow Jesus’ example.

Finally, place your trust in God. Stop and consider your place: do you make yourself big and God small? Faith and trust is betting your life that God lives and that He loves each one of us with a love that can never fail. We simply need to remember our Lord’s trust in the Father as He gave up His spirit. At the end, there was the utmost assurance that the One who had been with Him from eternity would not desert Him.

Of course, we can’t look into the future but what we can do now, with the help of our Lord, is to make wiser decisions that will bring profit to our souls. May your decisions this year bring you a penitent, praying, pure, obedient, and a very happy heart. And when you look back at 2014 may it be with joy.