I thought the move was going to be a simple change of scenery, possibly requiring some minor adjustments at most. After all, I was returning to my home country, already knowing the language, people, and customs. If I had managed to get used to the scorching heat, spicy food, rickshaws, and monsoons of India and Nepal, where I had spent eight years as a volunteer, surely this move in the opposite direction wouldn’t be too difficult.
The Bible tells of a group of people who attempted an ambitious building program. Sadly for them, work on the world’s first skyscraper—the Tower of Babel—had unforeseen consequences. In fact, they got themselves into quite a mess.1
Things don’t always work out like you anticipate, no matter how well you prepare or how adequate your resources are. After all, it might not be a good plan at all; and even if it is, there’s no way of knowing what the future holds.2 But that isn’t the full picture. While first attempts can lead to disappointment, they can also lead to success and fulfilment:
A couple of years ago, I took an English teaching training course. My first language is Croatian, and I had been working as a professional translator and interpreter for over 20 years, so I spoke English on a daily basis and was quite happy doing some freelance English teaching.
I had just moved to Winnipeg, Canada, and the Internet connection at my apartment had yet to be installed, so I was on my way to a nearby café to get online and do some work.
Halfway there, I suddenly wondered if I had remembered to take my wallet and stopped to check my backpack. At that instant I felt a blow against my ankle, and I spun around to see who was “attacking” me.
My first encounter with Nadia was seven years ago, when a friend brought her to our home at 10 o’clock one night. Her skin was sallow; her eyes sunken and empty; her hair, obviously cared for meticulously at one time, was now dry and stringy; and her clothes, facial expressions, and body language told us, even before she said a word, that she had lost hope.
Jack sank deeper into his seat in the cold train carriage and pulled his hat down over his ears. He and his fellow passengers had been stranded there for several hours already. The steam locomotive and the lead carriage of the overnight express train had jumped the tracks halfway between hell and nowhere. Now all they could do was wait until help arrived. It was 1959, the middle of winter, and the dead of night. No power, no heat, and no light except for a few flashlights that the conductor and some passengers had.
The new year is a good time to take stock of what we’ve accomplished over the past 12 months, to thank God for the blessings He’s brought our way, and to open our hearts and minds in anticipation of all that is to come in the year ahead.
Many people also take advantage of the new start to make resolutions for improving their character, fitness level, health, knowledge, or circumstances. God wants us to examine our lives regularly, and to try to become better persons every day. “Let us examine our ways and test them, and let us return to the Lord.”1
Life is all about the little decisions you make every day. Decisions of the past have had their effect, but every new day can be a new start. No matter what has happened up till now, you have a chance to make the right choices today.
Don’t waste time reliving the pain of past mistakes and wrong decisions. That only saps your power to do the good that you can do today. You can’t change the past, but the future is what you make it, starting right now, so take full advantage of the present.
Changes are awfully unsettling for me. I like my little nest, where everything is just so and nothing jostles me too much. I like routines and schedules, the comfort of knowing what’s going on—both immediately and in the future. Change can be exciting sometimes, but mostly it’s really tough. It’s tough leaving behind stuff I know and love, and it’s tough not knowing what’s ahead.
Not long ago, my husband and I found ourselves moving away from family and friends. We had good reasons for the move, and we knew where we were going, but of course much of the future was still a big blank. And that was scary.
In most countries the new year is celebrated on the first day of January, but in Cambodia, my home for three years, we got to celebrate New Year three times every 365 days.
First comes the international New Year on January 1, best known for late-night parties and morning-after hangovers.
Then there is the Chinese New Year in January or February. The Chinese New Year is a time to light firecrackers, visit relatives, and burn faux paper money to one’s ancestors.