2018 – MY YEAR IN A FEW PARAGRAPHS
Or “The Snow Queen” Revisited
by Eric Elder
My 2018 felt like a failure. It wasn’t, but it felt like it was.
That’s because one of my heartfelt hopes and dreams for the year didn’t happen.
And because the one thing I hoped would happen didn’t happen, it colored the way I saw everything else that happened in 2018. Like a bit of glass in my eye from the shattered mirror in Hans Christian Anderson’s story “The Snow Queen,” that one shard in my eye affected the way I saw everything else.
But a more objective look at my 2018 reveals a different view than the one I see only through my glass-distorted eye.
2018 was filled with friends who have continued to support and encourage me in my life: a Monday morning foursome of guys who check in each week via video chat for an hour, a group of a dozen or more of us who do ministry together at church and who also share our hopes and dreams and struggles along the way, a few close friends who call or take calls at any hour of the day or night to keep me from going off a cliff, and my family who does life with me and who laughs and cries and eats and prays with me day by day. For these, I am so thankful.
2018 was filled with travel and speaking opportunities ranging from talking about the wonders of God’s creation with 80 junior highers at a summer camp for a week in Indiana to talking about the joys and pitfalls of godly and ungodly intimacy to 450 young adults during a weekend in Colombia. I spoke multiple times to a local county board about a building project that would affect my life and the lives of hundreds of others for years to come. I led 3 very small groups of 3-5 people each, spoke at 3 retreats of 12-120 each, shared sermons at 3 churches of 300-400 each, and spoke at the wedding of a family friend with 100 others listening in, all of whom were touched by God at these events in meaningful ways. For these, I am so thankful.
2018 was filled with healthy living and helpful diagnoses, having finally reached an ideal weight after 8 years of weighing less than ideal, seeing a few of my vital stats come into normal ranges after being on the edges of normal for awhile, getting regular exercise and getting rid of a sleeping device I feared I’d have to use for the rest of my life. On the flip side, I’ve had some medical tests this year, now that I’ve reached the age to do such routine testing, some of which have helped me see I still have farther to go and more work to do so I don’t shortchange my life from even one day that God has in mind for me. For these, I am so thankful.
2018 was filled with helping others achieve their dreams and goals, from recording some gifted pianists and getting their music online to encouraging some gifted writers and getting their words out to the world. And I’ve stepped into a new role at our church this year, first as a volunteer and since September as a part-time, paid staff member, helping to grow their online ministry to reach thousands more with the good news of Christ. For these, I am so thankful.
And 2018 was filled with some personal achievements that have been a long time in coming, from completing a 9-year renovation project at my home turning an attic into a personal retreat center to watching a 25-year writing project about the life of St. Nicholas turn into a wonder-filled stage production in the form of “a Christmas story ballet.” I’ve enjoyed trips to the west coast to celebrate a birthday of a friend and to the east coast in honor of the memory of my late wife, Lana, and took in two fantastic Broadway shows. I’ve enjoyed playing my piano and seeing my kids go after their own dreams. For these, I am so thankful.
I’m not where I want to be, and I’m not where I could be. But with God’s help and the help of others who love me, I think I’m better than I used to be.
The story of “The Snow Queen,” it turns out, is more relevant to my life than I realized.
The story was written, at least one biographer believes, after Hans Christian Anderson went through a personal heartache as well. That real-life event so impacted him that he wrote about it in allegory form, capturing a condition that affects us all universally.
The beauty of the story is that it also points to the solution to the problem of having bits of glass in our eyes which distort our vision: to return to the One who gave us our lives, our Lord who loves us unconditionally and who will never leave us nor forsake us.
Anderson tells in his story how our heartfelt tears can wash away those bits of glass, tears that were sparked by a friend who cared, and who pointed him back to Christ. He writes:
“Gerda shed hot tears, and when they fell upon him they went straight to his heart. They melted the lump of ice and burned away the splinter of glass in it….
“Kay burst into tears. He cried so freely that the little piece of glass in his eye was washed right out.”
The story ends with a verse from the Bible and a verse from a hymn, read by a grandmother to these two young friends who had been through so much:
“Both of them had forgotten the icy, empty splendor of the Snow Queen’s palace as completely as if it were some bad dream. Grandmother sat in God’s good sunshine, reading to them from her Bible:
“‘Except ye become as little children, ye shall not enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.’
“The two looked into each other’s eyes, and at last they understood the meaning of their old hymn:
“’Where roses bloom so sweetly in the vale,
There shall you find the Christ Child, without fail.’
“And they sat there, grown-up, but children still–children at heart. And it was summer, warm, glorious summer.”
As 2018 has ended and 2019 has come, I’m reminded that the tears I’ve shed weren’t wasted tears; they’re part of the healing love that flows from God above, the One who renews our vision and restores our souls to see the world anew. For this, I am so thankful.
My prayer for you this year is the same as my prayer for myself, that God would renew your vision and restore your soul as you head into 2019, knowing that He sees every tear and walks beside you always–even when you have no more tears left to cry.
May God bless you abundantly in 2019, and may He give you His vision for your New Year. In Jesus’ name, Amen.