New Years celebrations never consist of much for me. Last year, my fiancé and I rang in the occasion with my parents and little sister, the young couple equivalent of cheap wine and a couchful of cats. We were all so pathetically tired that we put in a movie in an attempt to keep us occupied and awake until the ball dropped. This worked too well and we actually missed the ball dropping by two minutes after which we collectively said “screw it” to the whole ordeal, gulped some champagne, and slouched off to bed. Live to cheer another day.
This year wasn’t much more lively seeing as my fiancé came down with what I can only assume is food poisoning this past weekend. What startled me was how quickly she went from happily watching a movie with me to puking her sweet little guts out. Since we don’t live together, I’m not normally at her place very late and thus spent a sleepless night on the floor next to her bed. I suppose any couple on the verge of marriage should have to endure at least one of those types of nights before they sign their vows. It’s up on the list with family squabbles and untimely car trouble.
I’ve been reading a novel that grapples with the issues of climate change. The book fascinates me on several levels but it also scares me. It scares me because of how easily I’m prone to not care about things like climate change, how quickly I roll my eyes and shrug it off as a political issue, one that the church shouldn’t deal with, how rapidly I just disappear into the mountains and forests well out of the ear shot of any highways and reminders of the human footprint.
But sometimes I can’t ignore it. Sometimes I’m forced to look out my front door at a world that’s being burned, land-filled and plowed to death.
And yet we march on. It can’t be that big of a deal; another year has passed and we’re still here. It may be a bad now but my fiancé will get over this food poisoning eventually.
Humans are in love with the idea or our persisting, Barbara Kingsolver says, we fetishize it really. So I find myself looking around on New Year’s Eve wanting to yell at everyone: “what the hell are you cheering for? What on earth have we accomplished? And what’s with this confetti? Don’t you know pigeons can choke on this? Are you just totally heartless?” It’s like a general standing in front of dying soldiers and cheering: “By golly…another great day at the office, eh?”
I note this with certain hypocrisy. Hanging on the cross, Christ was able to forgive the men being tortured next to him, as well as those who drove in the nails. Me? I enjoy looking around at a New Years party and wondering which of those sinning bastards has the biggest carbon footprint. I really am the worst of these.
After a few hours my fiancé was able to fall asleep and in the morning she seemed to be feeling better though weak. Sometimes there is not an answer. As C.S. Lewis said: sometimes the complaint is the answer. The complaint is the answer for the heart of the cynic.
Because sometimes I help my weak fiancé down to the couch and I make sure she’s okay. Sometimes afterwards I take a walk outside, to get some fresh air to clear my head. And sometimes when I’m walking, when all these thoughts muddle my head and the weight of it all seems entirely suffocating, I look around at the old snow, clinching to it’s frozen territory on the ground. Then I glance at the shoes on my feet, my hands in my pockets and somehow, for just a moment, I am able to be content with that answer: the answer of my being, my being as a grace. Who is this that questions my wisdom with such ignorant words? I say nothing in response; I just look at the ground.
But my complaint is an answer and my ability to make it is proof that grace is sufficient. Global warming, survival, food poisoning and New Years aside…for just a moment sometimes I can take being as a grace.
With another year underway people across the globe raised glasses, swapped kisses, picked confetti out of their hair and cheered humanity’s accomplishment of making it through another round. In the midst of it all, I stood with cynical hands in my pockets and eyes of hypocrisy cast toward my feet upon the ground. And for the briefest of moments I pondered the grace of being.
For one as cynical as me, that was something wonderful and worth celebrating.