I confess to not being sorry to see the back of 2016.
With so much of what happened in the world contrary to what was expected by the pundits, it must be one of the strangest years in living memory. Closer to home, it was a year of continual struggle with the Go and Grow project, with every twist and turn of this epic journey threatening to be the last. After nearly three years of this nerve wracking endeavour the strain finally took its toll on me personally and so, on the Bishop’s advice, I took some recuperative time off in the autumn.
So we enter 2017, still full of uncertainties, both in the world at large and regarding the future of St Bs. Our planning application is scheduled to come to the Barnet planning committee on 25th January and until then there is an inevitable collective holding of breath. Like with a cliff-hanger at the end of a soap opera episode, we are forced into a powerless wait.
Reading Psalm 73 today I was arrested by its early verses:
2 But as for me, my feet had almost slipped;
I had nearly lost my foothold.
3 For I envied the arrogant
when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
4 They have no struggles;
their bodies are healthy and strong.
5 They are free from common human burdens;
they are not plagued by human ills.
It is easy to look at others and think they’ve got it easy, while life for us is a constant hard effort. This is almost certainly untrue, as we view the world through the distorted prism of our own self-interest, often failing to perceive the struggles of those around us. However even if it is true, it is a perspective that completely misses the point. Focussing on our struggles and comparing them with others’ will inevitably lead to disillusionment.
The psalmist (Asaph*) was so distracted by his life’s woes that he “almost slipped”. He was focussing on all the wrong things. Later on in the psalm he finds his footing again, stating: “as for me, it is good to be near God” (v28). Conversely he comes to understand that those he had envied for their comfortable lives are perhaps the ones on the really “slippery ground”(v18).
*Asaph was David’s principle worship leader (1 Chronicles 16:4,5) and twelve psalms are ascribed to him, including Psalm 73.