Someone compared the end of 2016, or maybe just the whole year, to the Battle at Helm’s Deep in Lord of the Rings. This is one of my favorite parts of the film series. It is one of my favorite battle scenes in any film I have seen. Besides being a great action sequence, it is a pivotal moment in the story. During this battle it seems totally hopeless for the people of Rohan. They are outnumbered and outgunned, as it were. The elves come to help, but they still have all the odds stacked against them. There is a moment where you can see that even Theoden has lost all hope, when he orders them to fall back to the Hornburg. He has given up.
For a lot of people, that is exactly how 2016 felt. Not just because of the celebrity deaths. Celebrities die every year, but because we are all getting older, we are going to begin recognizing many more of the names that are passing. No, I have heard from a lot of people that 2016 was one of the toughest years of their lives. To be honest, it was a tough year for me. A lot of struggles in my personal life, and a lot of that had to do with why I wrote so little on the blog through out the year. I am grateful that Liz was able to consistently post and keep things going for us. There were a lot of times this year where I just couldn’t. My 2016, then, was similar to everybody else’s 2016. There were times that I felt like I was in my own personal Helm’s Deep, and times when I felt like I was going to abandon hope and retreat to the Hornburg.
I didn’t totally abandon hope. Somehow, I survived. I felt like Theoden, in that I survived and hung on just long enough for Gandalf to arrive with reinforcements and save me, but I did it. Chances are, if you’re reading this, you did it too. We all made it to the end of 2016 and have come out n the other side. We survived.
Now, I’m not trying to be Captain Negative and dwell on only the bad stuff that happened in 2016. There were some great things that happened for me and for my family, including the birth of our sixth child and me leaving I job I less than liked, for a position with my dream employer. In between those things, though, there were plenty of challenges. That’s the way it works, though. Theoden and the army of Rohan would not have achieved a great victory over Saruman and his orcs if they had not shown up and fought the battle to begin with. Or, in the immortal words of Neil Peart of Rush: “You can fight without ever winning, but never ever win without a fight.” We couldn’t have made it through 2016 and say we made it through the worst year ever without going through 2016.
Why does it matter, though? Couldn’t every year just be awesome? I have been thinking about it. And about this whole Lord of the Rings metaphor. Here’s the thing, right after the Battle at Helm’s Deep, Gondor calls on (kind of calls on) Rohan to come help in a battle of their own, and they go. Right after Helm’s Deep, came the Battle of Pelennor Fields. Which was just as huge and just as crucial, and for Theoden, much more deadly. Right after they went through the hell that was Helm’s Deep, they entered a whole new hellish battlefield.
I think their ride to Pelennor Fields was different, though. I think they went more confident, more at peace, if that makes sense. They had just won a major battle. They knew the strength of men could hold against the forces of darkness. They knew they could march to war against evil and they could win. All things they learned in the Battle at Helm’s Deep.
Again, not trying to be Captain Negative, but we don’t know what will happen in 2017, or what challenges we are going to face, but everybody is saying that it will be better than 2016. I don’t think that’s just a “it can’t be any worse” kind of a hope. At least it wasn’t for me. When the clock hit midnight at our house, I felt a huge feeling of relief. I knew 2017 was going to be better. As I have thought about it since then, I am totally aware that I have no idea what will happen in 2017, but I know it will be better. I know I can make it through because I made it through 2016.
I learned a lot in 2016 as I went through my own set of challenges. Part of what I learned was to lean on my spouse more. Part of what I learned was to lean on the Savior more. Part of what I learned was more patience and more trust in the Lord. I knew these things before, but through the challenges I faced, I re-learned them. Because of that, I am ready to face 2017, and whatever it might bring. Even if it is Pelennor Fields. I know I will make it through. I know you will too.
2017 will be better, because you are better. You are ready for it. You already conquered 2016, so you can do anything. I hope this coming year brings you happiness and peace. I hope you have opportunities to grow and improve and contribute to the world in ways only you can. In other words, and in much briefer terms, Happy New Year!