Both Sides Now

January 5, 2013

Psalm 121:8

"The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time on and forevermore."

Anthony B. Robinson

The name of this month, "January," comes from the ancient Roman deity, Janus - a lesser god but one who has always made sense to me. Janus was the god of gates and doorways. He had two faces, one looking forward, another looking backward.

Sometimes January, and the beginning of a new year, feel like that. We're not quite sure if we're coming or going. We're looking in two directions. We look back over the year now past. And we peer into the new one just underway.  If you still write checks, and you're like me, it takes a while to begin to get the year right in the space for the date.

In a deeper sense, transitions - whether of the calendar or in the seasons of our lives - are powerful, poignant, and challenging times. They can be both confusing and exhilarating. Something like the class 2 or 3 rapids on a river float trip.

In his great little classic Transitions, William Bridges says that in important life transitions we don't ever go instantly from what was to the new thing (however much we might wish to). There's always an in-between time, a fruit-basket-upset period, when things don't quite make sense. A time of disorientation.

I especially experienced this a couple years ago when, in a span of four months, both of our sons got married. Glad occasions, to be sure, but tinged as well with loss and currents running deep. Emotionally and spiritually we were shooting a rapids.

So I'm not surprised, but I am grateful, to read in Psalm 121 that God keeps a particular vigilant watch at our times of "going out and coming in," our times of ending and beginning, and all that is between the two. In such times, when everything else may seem up for grabs, one thing is not: God's love and presence.

Prayer

In times of ending and of beginning, help us to know that you are close and to seek your presence and guidance. Amen.

About the Author
Anthony B. Robinson, a United Church of Christ minister, is a speaker, teacher and writer. His newest book is Called to Lead: Paul's Letters to Timothy for a New Day, and he is also the author of the just-published Book of Exodus: A God is still speaking Bible Study. Read his weekly reflections on the current lectionary texts at www.anthonybrobinson.com by clicking on Weekly Reading.

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