This Week Is A Time To Reflect On What Is Next
This week’s Courier Herald column:
As someone whose annual calendar is heavily anchored in the activities of the Georgia General Assembly, the annual declaration of Sine Die for adjournment is a bit of relief. In fact, it’s quite freeing. It’s time to consider what is next.
The immediate focus for the capitol and capital community turns to The Masters in Augusta. It’s easy to deride this priority for the legislators to finish business prior to golfers taking practice swings with the state’s best azaleas as a backdrop, but the Masters is a serious business venture for the state. The elite of the international business community convene here for a week, and our top leaders in government and commerce put on a full court press to lure more economic activity in the aftermath. Think of it as Davos with a southern drawl.
For most of the rest of us, we have Passover, Easter, and/or Spring Break marking our calendars. Some are looking ahead a few weeks further, as graduations begin in earnest in about a month. There’s a lot of “what’s next?” to go around.
Part of the allure of the “what’s next?” mindset is leaving the present, and moving more items into our past. This can be in the form of marking accomplishments on our permanent record, or turning the page on current struggles in the hopes of better things tomorrow.
With the longer and warmer days accompanied by green shoots and colorful blooms, it’s a good time to shift mindsets to positions of optimism. Evidence of new life and growth is all around us. It’s up to us to decide to consciously join it. Optimism, at its root, is a choice.
Optimism doesn’t mean a detachment with Realism. Reality is just the field on which Optimism and Pessimism play against each other. Each of us gets to decide which wins.
For those of us on the Christian calendar, the backdrop of Easter highlights the stark difference in the “What’s next?” mindset. The week between Palm Sunday and Easter is the darkest of our year. It is so dark that the imagery of Good Friday even culminates with an eclipse.
Easter is about putting the past behind us. Our sins are paid for. Our past is irrelevant.
The question of “what’s next?” is a little more complicated. The Easter story is not a fairy tale. There is no Bible verse that says “and they lived happily ever after” when Jesus ascended into heaven. Quite the contrary.
The “what’s next” part of the Easter story is not about this world, but is instead a question of eternity. Throughout the Old and New Testament, we are prepared that this world will always have evil at work around us. We will be tried and tested.
Christians, as a group, will be persecuted. Almost all of Jesus’ own apostles died as martyrs.
Too many of us today believe the line that we live “in a Christian nation”, and have become convinced that we have as such inoculated ourselves from oppression. There’s also a political aspect and warning in the Easter story here. Jesus arrived in Jerusalem as the people’s choice to be their new ruler. Days later, the same masses voted for his execution.
Politics is fickle. The only time Jesus was on the ballot, Barabbas won the election. Religious beliefs are too important to be subjected to whims of popular opinion or bureaucracies created and maintained by the powerful and connected.
We’re told that the road ahead will be difficult, but that the destination will be the reward. Along the way we’re told to love our neighbors. We sometimes get confused when we’re supposed to turn the other cheek, and when we should turn over tables in the temple.
The net message for us, however, is that those who accept the gift of Easter only have to think about what is next. Our past is irrelevant. Our destination – the ultimate in what is next – is also decided.
That leaves us in a position to not look too far ahead, but instead to look around within our present. Accepting forgiveness for the past, and feeling secure about eternity despite the challenges we know we will face frees up a lot of time and energy to love one another as we love ourselves, and to be neighbors to those in need – even our own Samaritans. This is where real personal growth begins.
May you and yours find comfort and peace this week as you navigate your own questions of “what’s next?”.