Thursday, December 31, 2009

All is Quiet on New Year's Day

The title of this post, as many of you probably know, comes from U2’s “New Year’s Day” from their 1983 album War (which, incidentally, is the first U2 song I ever heard, after which, at age ten, I went out and bought the LP. The rest, as the fella said, is history). So here I am, 26 years later on what will in two hours be New Year’s Day, sipping Bunnahabhain, reading Hemmingway, listening to U2’s latest album No Line on the Horizon, and wondering where all the time has gone.

Exactly ten years ago tonight, at the turn of the millennium, I was preaching a sermon from Romans 9 to a group of Hungarians from the Calvary Chapels of Miskolc and Debrecen on the glory of God displayed in both the salvation of the elect and the damnation of the reprobate (I was young). Less than a month later I would find out that we would be kicked out of Calvary because of sermons like that, and three months later my wife and I would move back to the U.S. and figure out what the next step would be.

At this moment it is hitting me with an almost crushing sense of wonder that the ‘90s were no longer last decade, but now the decade before last. I began that decade a 16 year-old and ended it at the ripe old age of 26. I spent almost a year of it in Africa and six years of it in Europe, and it was during those years in Hungary especially that I sort of became who I am, both personally, philosophically, and theologically. It is probably the hours and hours I spent wandering the streets, alleyways, and courtyards of Budapest thinking about love and life and lamentation that are to blame for my ever-increasing desire to get back there somehow (for now I must content myself with videos like the one below, directed by an old friend). Ah, nostalgia: It ain’t what it used to be….

So anyway, here I am, waxing pensive and realizing once again that all my desires—whether for things past or things to come—are really just a big ol’ farce, nothing more than a longing for heaven that is every bit as hounding as it is haunting, equally intransient as inconvenient. “My mind races with all my longings,” sings the poet, “but can’t keep up with what I’ve got.” But I suppose I’m in good company, for if Adam longed for something better than Paradise, then who am I to be content with life in a passing age, characterized as it is by a servile bondage to decay and death?

A raising of the glass, then, to the coming decade—may it be filled with mirth as well as melancholy, laughter as well as lament. May we rise high above our feats and defeats, knowing that at the end of the Day when all is said and done, earth simply isn’t worthy of us.

(But I sure like it sometimes....)