Looking forward and looking back

Published 9:00 am Friday, January 1, 2016

Across the Pastor’s Desk by Mark Boorsma

Today begins a month the Romans named after Janus, the god of gates and doorways commonly portrayed with two faces — one looking forward and one looking backward (and you thought your mother was the only one with eyes in the back of her head). Although Janus has fallen from popular memory, many still practice his particular kind of double vision, reviewing the year past while also greeting a new year with fresh resolve.

This year I resolve not to make any resolutions that immediately set me up to fail. While I could certainly stand to eat less and exercise more, or set a dozen other ambitious goals that might make me more trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent, I’ve learned that I will also feel way too guilty about my inevitable stumbling.

Mark Boorsma

Mark Boorsma

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The character flaw that gets me in the most trouble is my perfectionism — that troubling expectation that everything must be “just so.” I’m never so grumpy as when I fault myself and the world for being less than perfect. It’s also too easy to suppose that a demanding God expects perfection also.  Although the many decent people we encounter might fool us into believing that “good” is the norm, somebody somewhere sooner or later is bound to disappoint.  An aspect of the Christian message that resonates well with me is the assessment that all human beings are “sinners” — essentially self-centered with a fatal disregard for God and one another. Though this may sound depressing, it actually sets us up for the really good news that God already knows this about us and has arranged to give us a perfection we could never hope to manufacture.

My wish for you in the new year is twofold. First, I pray that you may come to know your maker and redeemer, the one who loves you completely. Second, I hope that you connect with a faith community that’s not so perfect that it has no place for “people like you.” The best faith communities are gatherings of imperfect people who have learned to forgive and support one another.  Since we’re on this journey together, we might as well respect and help each other in every new year we are given. Traveling together, we trust the one who made us, redeems us and loves us still.

Mark Boorsma is the pastor at Ascension Lutheran Church in Albert Lea.