January 1, 2023

You’ve Completely Caught Up For Now

So I was scrolling Facebook when I got this message:

Wow! You mean like, completely caught up? Well, for now at least. But hang on a minute, it’s telling us that ‘Something went wrong”.

You’ve completely caught up for now, because something went wrong. In other words, we need to keep you chasing something. If you’re not, if you ever get the sense that you have arrived, then we have screwed this thing up.

As we go into 2023 there’s a sense in our ever churning world which is 24/7 on, and pretty much 24/7 online, that we’re never, ever going to be completely caught up. But caught up with what? How much catching up do we have do to? If you’re anything like me, you’re sitting in a day or two of the year in which it feels like that must might be true. At least for a brief time.

And it doesn’t feel like something went wrong. It feels like something went right. If you are having a relax at the moment there’s a good chance that you’re assessing how the year ahead should go and thinking “If only I could feel completely caught up all of the time, rather than this constant chasing of the wind.”

In the grand scheme of things there’s only one person – or Person – who is ever completely caught up, and that’s God Himself. Yet our tendency to overreach, our desire for godlike status has us seeking to cover all bases and ensure that we’re not missing a trick. That no bit of information is beyond us. That no story can break without us knowing about it, along with its ins and outs. Our desire to be completely caught up taps into our God complex like nothing else in late modernity.

I hazard a guess that many of us start the year wondering how we can ensure by April that we are caught up with the things that we need to be caught up on. But as they say “fuggedaboudit”!

For some of us the desire to be completely caught up with everything all of the time will lead to burn out in 2023. Or a level of anxiety that has us medicated. Not trying to put a bad spin on the start of the year, but to believe otherwise would be a triumph of hope over experience.

What might it be like in 2023 to determine that we do not need to be completely caught up – ever. That little caveat “for now”, is the term that sets the hamster wheel in motion in our lives. Because it says to us that a time is coming when we won’t be completely caught up – again – and we’ll have to get onto it to ensure we are.

There’s a good chance these are just the ramblings of a man in his holidays on the first day of the year. But I sense in myself that driven desire to always be completely caught up. And then realising that when I somehow do reach that – whatever I am measuring that by – it’s only “for now” anyway.

I wonder what it might look like to go into 2023 never needing to be completely caught up? Not “never being caught up”, but deleting the need to be all of the time. It’s a challenge indeed because it will induce FOMO in some of us. For others it will be seen as a sign of spiritual laxity or some such. Still in others it will be seen as a sign of physical weakness. I’ve lost count of the number of running videos I’ve watched this year which lure me into “doing better, trying harder, running faster”. I’ll be 56 this year, at some point better and harder won’t equate to faster.

Perhaps it’s wiser to leave this with the God who is the eternal now, the one who neither slumbers nor sleeps, but who, because of that, gives his beloved sleep.

Of course it’s all easy to say it on the first day of the year, a Sunday, in which the house and streets around it are quiet. Before the hum and churn kicks in again. Before the urge – the vain urge – to be completely caught up for now resets. In the midst of that quiet, how about we ask God this year to help us resist the desire to always be completely caught up, and instead rest in his sovereignty.

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There is no guarantee that Jesus will return in our desired timeframe. Yet we have no reason to be anxious, because even if the timeframe is not guaranteed, the outcome is! We don’t have to waste energy being anxious; we can put it to better use.

Stephen McAlpine – futureproof

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