A “mantra” for the new year. Also one of my favorite hymns.
This evening I got in that mood again – the ooey, gooey, too much in-my-head-writing mood that I used to know more frequently when I spent my spare time writing blog posts and short stories. (That I would be humiliated by if anyone found them.) Now I waste time on social media stalking “friends” who are far away, reposting dance videos and art to make me look cultured, some recipes, but mostly watching cat and dog videos… inspiring for certain.
When I got the crazy idea I should spend my quiet new year’s eve reflecting, being sentimental, writing about my past year and making plans for the new year, I asked the Lord, not in any coherent words, but more a subconscious kind of asking – what should be my focus for the new year? As soon as the thought crossed my mind other thoughts crossed too, and before I knew it I was pouring myself another glass of wine, washing the dishes, petting the cat… when I noticed I was humming and then singing a hymn. “High King of Heaven, my victory won…” I love it when the Lord does this. It seems to be one of the ways he captivates and retrieves my wandering mind…
What does Be Thou My Vision have to do with my new year? He guided me to the book 150 of the World’s Greatest Hymns. I was amazed to discover that this hymn came from an ancient Irish prayer, written in the eighth century 400 years after Saint Patrick evangelized the Druids in Ireland, and translated in 1905 by Mary Elizabeth Byrne, a scholar in Dublin. It was set to tune by Eleanor Hull of Manchester, England. One of our most timeless hymns, it resonates with my constant pleading the Lord for vision – for my life, for my art, for the last two and a half years my thesis concert. (Another thing he’s teaching me is to pray with an attitude of thanksgiving and faith that he has already given or done what I ask, rather than pleading for it.) I feel distracted and unclear a lot of the time, the complexities and anxieties in my own thoughts ousting clarity. I know only he gives me purpose and vision, and I constantly have to remind myself to submit my will and my vision to his. I’m learning, due the wise words of Madeline L’Engle, that I am not the master of my own life nor art, but a servant of the Master Creator’s masterpiece – I serve his work that he has an immaculate vision for it that will not fail. I can trust that, no matter how long it takes and no matter if I ever see the completed masterwork this side of life, he will accomplish it and it will be good.
The more I submit to his will the more I see the vision for the masterpiece more clearly. The fog and fear and anxiety strips away. There is still a lot of work to be done, and I learn every day some new way I fail and have to start again. But knowing I serve his masterpiece takes a lot of stress off myself and I can focus again on the task.
Before I get too carried away, let’s take a look at some of my past new year’s goals with fresh eyes and clear vision. How can Be Thou My Vision infuse some of these with clarity and steam for goals this year?
To be honest, I often cringe when I look at my past goals. I have thirty of these written on my blog, “30 before 30”, which I have not looked at in a number of years. If my blog were a journal it would have cobwebs on it by this point. I went through a couple years ago and deleted the majority of the foolish ones. They are so telling where my heart and priorities have lain. Many of them are good things too:
#1 Backpack Europe before I turn 25 (because Euro rail is cheaper). Hmm I guess I’ll have to postpone this one, until I get a real job and can afford the full post-25 adult price.
#2 Get a “real job” and save money. I think I should have thrown that one out long ago. How about get a job that has a contract for more than 6 months and/or benefits?
#4 Pay off my student loans. hmm well, I started once before grad school. I will have to start again soon, with that real job…
#8 Get married and start having kids. Before 30, mind you! Isn’t it funny how 30 seems to get younger the closer I get to it?
#12 Get a Master’s degree in something useful. I’m pretty sure I made this one because my undergrad wasn’t very useful. Well, too bad my Master’s isn’t considered “useful” either. At least I didn’t go into more debt.
#15 Put a down payment on a house. Well, still have a year a half to scramble into that one…if I can ever get a job and decide where I’m living!
#18 Get my Pilates certification. Woohoo! made one!
#26 See the Grand Canyon. Totally doable. But if I still haven’t done it in the past 28 years when I grew up in one state over and visit my parents at least once a year, this is going to take some initiative.
Alright. This list is about a lot of different action goals. I’ve added quite a few other goals each year, usually to do with training, diet and health, spiritual devotion and prayer, and usually something about using my time better… the last one will definitely reoccur this year. But these are still actions, and when I make action goals I frequently disappoint. When I ponder Be Thou My Vision, it has to do with the attitude of the heart.
Setting the attitude of my heart on things that are lasting, an eternal mindset, strips away the fog, fear, anxiety. This is also something the Lord has been revealing to me about Beauty through my thesis concert. What makes someone truly beautiful? A heart that belongs to the Lord. He is Truth and Perfection, the ultimate revelation of Beauty. The first verse of the hymn reads, “Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart; naught be all else to me, save that Thou art; Thou my best thought, by day or by night, waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.” A heart that is submitted to and longs for the Lord – that heart’s vision will be clear because it is illuminated by his radiant presence. Being in his presence is the best feeling in the world. His presence pierces the darkness and brings tears of joy to heal the sadness and pain. Lord knows there is a lot pain and hardship I endured this year. He never left me. His presence was a comfort to me, but also something I too quickly left or discounted. Practicing the Presence, as 17th century Brother Lawrence did – is a difficult task for anyone living on planet earth with unending distractions and needs. Yet that is the best way I know how to submit the attitude of my heart to Him. Willfully choose to set my thoughts on him and surrender to his Spirit, his vision, his beauty. Thank God for the grace he offers through his Son Jesus Christ for all the times I fall out of practice. Let this year be a year of practicing the Presence and, not in any task-oriented, legalistic sort of way, a joyous constant surrendering of my heart to eternal Beauty.