God’s Grammar for the New Year

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Somebody—probably a preacher—has said, "Don't put a period where God only puts a comma."

Good spiritual syntax. When negativity insinuates itself into the narrative of our lives, we tend to end the story too soon. Writer's block sets in. Creativity runs out. The river dries up. We instinctively figure that what's in front of us is a dead end and we can go no further.

There is a quality about failure, heartbreak, and betrayal that fuels a myth of finality: we are hoodwinked into thinking that losing something means losing everything.

If you are like everybody else who shares space with you on the planet, bad things happen to you. I am neither a prophet nor the son of a prophet, but I know this with absolute certainty. At one time or another you will break up, break down, lose out, go broke, give in, get sick, be sad. Life happens. Don't buy a used car—or a slick sermon—from anyone who tells you otherwise.

Your business venture is violated by close contractual partners, significant investments of money and energy are squandered, and you determine never to risk in this way again. Your marriage hits a rut of familiarity and routine, and you think the thrill of love is long gone. You find yourself in a one-sided relationship where you give good things disproportionately more than you get them, and you wonder if the whole thing is worth the effort. Somebody dear to you dies or leaves, and you vow never to let yourself get so close again. Your church disappoints—or worse, demeans—and you want to wash your hands of such a fickle, feckless bunch.

Funny thing about humans: they are never as good as we want them to be. The temptation is to cut our losses, take our meager winnings, and never place bets on human beings again. In short, the temptation is to put a period where a comma used to be.

Don't make that grammatical error this year.

Feed your faith imagination. Discipline yourself to believe that every ending entails a new beginning. Train your eye to see potential success winking over the shoulder of every failure. Believe that the possibilities of grace have a way of outwitting the established patterns of our past. Dare to deliver an alternative speech of hope to yourself. Say words that inspire and stir, that subvert all stored up messages of grief. You thought these messages were indelible, but they're not. Pray this: Lord, let me live with faith in the good that may happen tomorrow rather than regret for the bad that happened yesterday.

Pray that prayer to the one whose creative spirit hovers over all the failure and brokenness of our lives, whose divine eye is peeled to spot all our dead ends and connect them up with everybody else's. Look closer after praying these prayers. You will see that the road hasn't run out; it goes on after all.

The script of your life is still being written, and the pen is in your hand. You've incurred losses like everyone else, but all is not lost. Losing something does not mean losing everything.

So delete that period. Put a comma in its place. How you finish the sentence is up to you and God.

Read more of Charles Johnson at his blog, Connectivity.