This new year, I pray we more readily drink in the living water that Jesus gives. May the living water well up and flow from within us (John 4:14, 7:38), reviving the land by the love of Jesus. In the end, this is how we are called to embody holiness of heart and life, through discipleship that blends both personal and social holiness as John Wesley emphasized. As in Ezekiel’s vision (Ezek. 47:1-12), water comes down from the temple altar and flows like a river, making the salty water fresh; enabling life to thrive and bear fruits again, feeding and healing wherever it goes. May this be our story this year. I pray that our joys be complete in Christ Jesus, spilling over to shine light, give flavor, and breathe in life.

But in order to start healing, we must first stop hiding. Falseness, fear, pride, vanity…all the layers that we like to cover ourselves need to be cast aside. May we open up for Jesus to touch and heal us, and receive the truth in Jesus to set us free.

Amid the rioters who stormed the US Capitol last Wednesday, I saw a person holding up a sign, “Jesus Saves.” Some carried the American flag presumably as a sign of love to their country. Oh, how we all need the truth in Jesus to set us free from all false patriotism, false faith.

A step toward freedom starts with learning to love ourselves the way God loves us. As the Psalmist professes in awe, God has made each person with such marvelous and wonderful complexity. Each one of us is uniquely set apart to bear God’s image. Believing in this, it seems only counterproductive to try to be someone else. Becoming a truer you would mean a process of discovering and fully living the portion that God has assigned for your share. At times through molding, sometimes through stretching to grow, the image of God implanted in each of us will be revealed through a faithful walk on a narrow road.

To quote Antoine Saint-Exupéry, “Perhaps love is gently holding your hand in your journey of finding yourself.” On this road to becoming our truer selves, may we be friends to each other – friends who help to shed the false layers so that each person can more freely continue the walk on that road.

May the image of God be more truly recovered in us this year. May we come to see ourselves as those whom God foreknew, planned, and called God’s very own. I believe Joseph was one of those people who never let this understanding fade, and thereby he embraced his brothers by the love that conquers hate: “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” (Gen 50:20)

“What is Real?” One beautiful answer to this question can be found in Margery Williams’ children’s novel, The Velveteen Rabbit (1922). “Real isn’t how you are made,’ said the Skin Horse […] ‘You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

May we be real – in heart, life, worship, and in being church this year.