One of my passions is bowhunting. I enjoy the quiet of the woods, and the longer bowhunting season gives me opportunities to spend peaceful time outdoors from September through December. The downside of bowhunting is that it’s a lot more difficult to put venison in the freezer. Most winters as New Year’s approaches, I feel a sense of urgency to fill my tag, and the week between Christmas as New Year’s I try to cram in as many hours on stand as I can.
This year was no exception. New Year’s Eve I wasn’t thinking about resolutions, or the ball dropping, or parties. I was concerned about the sun dropping toward the horizon on the final afternoon of archery deer season. Right about sunset, with thirty minutes left before the end of the season, I shot a nice doe. In the fading light I tracked her, following the bright crimson pattern of blood across the snow. I thought how different this tracking was from a shot earlier in the season, when blood fades into leaves and dirt. A blood trail on snow is nature’s equivalent of a bright neon sign. Even a child can follow it.
The prophet Isaiah, speaking for God, tells the people of Israel, “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be white as snow; though they are red like crimson they shall be like wool” (Isaiah 1:18). Sometimes when I try to see myself accurately, it’s like following a difficult blood trail on wet leaves and dirt. I can’t see clearly what is right and what is wrong. I always have good motives for what I do — or at least good excuses — and sometimes I can’t tell whether I’m right or wrong. But when I focus on Jesus instead of on myself, things become much clearer. As I get close to him, my own sin leaps into perspective like bright red drops of blood against the snow of his holiness, his purity, his goodness. (I suppose this is why so often people don’t want to get close to Jesus!)
The good news is that Jesus invites us to come close to him without fear. “Come, let us reason together,” he says. “You can’t earn my goodness, but give me your sinful self and in exchange I will give you the gift of my holiness. Then come, follow me!”
What a great gift as we begin 2011 — Jesus longs to give us the gift of himself, so that when God our Father sees us, he sees the perfection of Jesus. We do not come to him ashamed and apologetic; instead we turn from ourselves to focus on Jesus, and in doing so we see clearly both our own shortcomings and the beauty of his perfection. How exciting that Jesus invites us to follow him into this new year!