New Year’s Day has always been a favorite holiday for me. Having grown up with three brothers, I naturally associate it with good food and lots of football, minus the pressures Christmas creates. At a personal level, I like the pause for reflection and resolve that January brings and the sense that this is a new beginning, a fresh start, a chance to do a lot of things better than I did in the year that has just closed.
This year, I’m struggling to find that sense of new beginnings. Instead, I have a strong awareness that a lot of 2006 is traveling with me into 2007. For my family, 2006 ended on an all-time low with the death of my brother-in-law, Kelly James, on Portland’s Mt. Hood. There isn’t any way to leave that heartache behind.
But for all of us, the past is always part of the present, as well as a shaping influence in our future and on us. We carry baggage from the past with us, no matter how desperately we’d like to leave it behind. Despite the obvious negatives (the extra weight, the drag on us, and the dysfunction baggage can produce), our inability to shake the past is a good thing in many respects. God uses the experiences, disappointments, and heartaches of the past to take us deeper in our relationship with Him. In the process, we gain wisdom and become more sensitive to the struggles of others. I felt this deeply during the search and rescue effort on Mt. Hood and in the grief that followed, because I’ve been especially helped by the comfort I’ve received from people who are in a lot of pain themselves.
A major goal of WhitbyForum is to encourage women and men to pursue a deeper relationship with God. I’m discovering that God does some of his best work in us through wounds that don’t seem to heal and in the residue left behind by painful chapters in our lives. The baggage we’re all carrying around are important opportunities to go deeper with God. If you want to explore this subject more, join my husband Frank and me in an online discussion of the hard questions about God that life’s realities provoke: http://mthoodclimbers.blogspot.com/