WELCOME TO 2017
A new day; a new month; a new year. How marvelous it is when we get an opportunity to begin again. How often we look at life and wish for a do-over. With a fresh perspective, the new year can be an occasion for second chances, updated resolutions and new hope.
In preparing this month’s newsletter, I considered a strange analogy. Snakes! I’m not that fond of snakes, however their behavior fits our January emphasis rather well. Inspiration comes from many places. I’m going to fan the flame of this spark and see where it takes us, despite my dislike toward these creatures, especially up close!
As you may know, snakes shed their old skin. They do so as they grow in size. Their external coats do not stretch. Literally outgrowing this outer shell, a snake's body regenerates as a new skin forms beneath the surface. Often a swim in a nearby lake will help advance the shedding (shedding works best in moist environments). This shedding also provides a health advantage as in this process, snakes rid themselves of external parasites. Leaving a thin hollow image behind, the snake is born into its new self.
The growing snake is a good metaphor for this month’s musing. Like a snake, with a new year, we can expand into a new beginning. First, for the snake, the shedding is a form of growth. This imagery is quite fitting. As we experience life each day, we learn, we mature, and we grow. It’s a natural process to grow physically as well as emotionally and spiritually. I ponder my recent past and recognize this growth. I learn from mistakes; I will not leave the sour cream out of my coffee cake recipe again--that particular improvisation did not have a good result. I’ve grown spiritually with more regular prayers. Being exposed to a few new scripture verses has proven a deeper relating to bible readings than I had and had not previously known. I even grow stronger from disappointments. Nope, I’m not going to get that vacation; I found other ways to enjoy relaxing family time. I have grown in wisdom. Taking time to ponder and consider the larger picture has helped me be more understanding and accepting, for example with our country’s campaigning this year. A lot of ideas flew through media venues; with an attitude of acceptance, I look forward to a positive future. I encourage you to think about the past year, and the ways in which you’ve grown. Give thanks for the experiences (big, small, joyous, and painful) for the ways in which each has helped you grow closer to God, your family, friends, and as an individual.
Second, in the process of shedding, the snake loses parasitic life forms that may have attached themselves to it since it’s last molt. What unhealthy habits will you leave behind as you begin this new year? What junk will you remove? Might it be trash, or perhaps an attitude that holds you back? Perhaps fear, laziness, envy, or pride? There are many parasites that prevent us from growing into a best version of ourselves. We strive to become stronger, more aware, perhaps more kind and generous, or more tolerant and understanding. We long to grow wiser and freer from the challenges in life that stunt our potential. Sometimes ridding our minds and hearts of perceptions and mindsets we’ve grown out of opens us up to new joys, peace and hope.
Next we consider a good swim--a washing, cleansing practice that both refreshes and sloths off old dead layers. I can’t help but notice the parallel to baptism. For many of us, baptism means a purification. Consider these ideas:
Another good word for the meaning behind a baptism: regeneration--just like the skin on our snake. As the snake swims to loosen his no-longer appropriate outer layer, he is cleansed; dirt and debris wash away. Climbing ashore, he is ready to shed, ready for a fresh start, born again into the next phase of his life.
Although we leave our figurative old skin behind, we recognize the way in which it served us while we existed in that stage. Thinking back over the last year, I find accomplishments, successes, hardships, failures, joyous moments, disappointments and milestones. Each one is important. As I examine the most memorable with an open mind, I discover purpose and notate the way in which each has brought me forward. Each represents an event of learning and growth into the revitalized person I’ll become in this new year. Remember we are the same “snake” in our core. As we grow and “shed,” we simply become a newer, larger, more mature version of our same spirit. Our essence remains; in fact, our essence may even be seen as becoming more and more like our real selves. As we mature, we learn to shed those false pretenses we use to manipulate our surroundings. These masks act like a security blanket. We often use different ones in different stages of our growth. Anyone hear Billy Joel’s The Stranger playing in the background? Shedding our less appropriate outer shells, we uncover the valuable soul beneath. The stronger and wiser we become, the less we fear and the more able we are to show our true self.
May we value this time of renewal. As we declare our New Year resolutions, may we recognize our growth, shed our dead, false, old skins, and shine brightly with strength and hope for an even better year of love and devotion to what is good ahead.
It is not that I have already taken hold of it or have already attained perfect maturity, but I continue my pursuit in hope that I may possess it… forgetting what lies behind but reaching forward to what lies ahead. I continue my pursuit toward the goal, the prize of God’s upward calling, in Christ Jesus. Let us, then, who are “perfectly mature” adopt this attitude. And if you have a different attitude, this too God will reveal to you. Only, with regard to what we have attained, continue on the same course.
Lillian Corrigan uses writing to learn, inspire and encourage both others and herself. No stranger to devastating, life-altering hardship and loss, she's begun working as a motivational author.