On Monday, I wrote a piece about time, discussing the ways we mark the transition from one year to the next. Astronomically speaking, any moment in our journey around the sun could serve as the beginning point for the year, but collectively, we have agreed that January 1st marks the start of each new year. As we cross from December 31st to January 1st and enter a different calendar year, we experience desires and longings for newness. We go through an annual ritual: We hope for richer experiences, sustained changes, and openness to different opportunities. The date is arbitrary, but the effect is real. We want newness.
For many of us, these desires are not only about the kind of future we seek. Sometimes, these desires are about the past we seek to leave behind.
We can’t leave the past completely behind, of course. Our past has formed vital parts of who we are. We will carry those experiences forward.
But sometimes, when a year has contained experiences that were accutely painful or challenging, we have a natural desire to bracket them in some way:
that hospital visit,
that job loss,
That thing belongs to the year we just finished.
This is a new year.
In this way, the arbitrary marker from one year to the next can give us an increased sense of distance between the painful experience and our present circumstances.
We need not live in denial, particularly if those circumstances or their consequences are ongoing. We need not leave behind the ones we love, especially those we have lost. But the desire to bracket an experience and gain some distance from a particular moment of time can empower us to view the experience as an observer. And. . .
This puts us in a position to forge meaning from the experience.
This puts us in a position to integrate it into our life story.
This puts us in a position to engage it as a conversation partner.
Likely, we would never choose such an experience for ourselves, yet it has formed part of us. In the midst of it, we may have discovered the incarnate God walking alongside us and entering the pain with us. In the midst of it, we may have discovered a community embracing us and reminding us that the experience could not and cannot completely define us.
When we bracket the time from one year to the next or from one particular chapter to another, we open ourselves to the beginning of a process. In this process, we join God as a partner. Together, we redeem the time.
I love the Ted Talk that I’ve posted below. Andrew Solomon has chosen a title that might feel stark to some. His Ted Talk is called, “How the Worst Moments in Our Lives Make Us Who We Are.”
When we’re smack dab in the midst of crisis, loss, or rapid change, such an assertion might not feel welcome, and for good reason.
If, however, we find ourselves in a position of survival, integration, and continuing recovery, we may find that statement to have some truth. This is because we’ve forged some meaning from the experience.
Most of all, I recommend this Ted Talk for its beautiful stories and power.
We’re all on the way.
And it’s always a process.
Together, we are always redeeming the time.
 I found the beautiful and fitting image above on this website.