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Puzzles and Seekers: A New Year in Spain

By Pablo,* RMM worker in Spain

For us, 2015 literally started out with a bang! We were able to watch fireworks from the rooftop after our New Year’s dinner. For the dinner, we had roast beef, Yorkshire pudding, potatoes, carrots, brussel sprouts and parsnips, made by a good friend with my help. It was a risky thing to do, given that he has not made it for 15 years and my major ignorance of cooking and kitchen protocol. But it turned out splendidly and was timely as well. We finished eating just before the stroke of midnight, then stuffed down grapes, one for each of the 12 chimes of midnight, which is a tradition here in Spain. Some say it’s for good luck, and if you can’t get all 12 grapes down in time, something bad will happen during the year. A more probable theory is that the tradition began within the past 75 years or so to get rid of an abundant grape harvest. Of course, making a profit had nothing to do with it! But I digress.

Last year six of us celebrated the New Year together. This year one couple couldn’t because of his mother’s advanced skin cancer. It’s untreatable at this point. She’s in pain and requires family members to be with her constantly. This is probably the last New Year she will be with them, unless God does a miraculous healing. We’ve not had opportunity to meet her, and visiting people in the condition she’s in is just not something Spanish families do. But why not ask him for healing? He can do it!

On New Year’s Day we cleaned up from the night before and enjoyed a meal with six other friends. Our common bond was music. Our host, a neighbor of an English student, took me to the first choir rehearsal some five and a half years ago. The meal was typically Spanish—a five-hour event spiced up by lots of conversation. The topic of the afternoon was relationships and sexuality. Spaniards are generally quite open and frank about it. Of the six people there besides us, three are divorced, two are single mothers, and the sixth has a broken four year live-in relationship behind her. Experts! At least opinionated! For us, it was an interesting insight into current Spanish thinking about sexuality. The women agreed that, for them traditional roles and expectations of marriage and intimacy have resulted in disappointment. As happens with discussions on politics, economy, religion, and personal well-being in general, problems were identified without many solutions. People are looking for answers, but most lead to changing things that are hard to change: beliefs, tradition, customs, people!

"Problem is,
whether it’s politics, relationships or whatever, change won’t come without a fundamental change in individuals from the inside out, with Jesus’ help."
In discussions like this, we mostly listen and wait for opportunities to become involved, so when they asked about the secret of our 38+ years of marriage, we jumped in. Our response was that relationships require a great deal of work and commitment, and marriage is no exception. Fortunately, we have an unseen Friend who gives enablement (we call it grace) and direction to help us do things that we are unable to do on our own. In short, our faith in God and commitment to him helps us in all of our relationships. This contrasts, we believe, to self-help ideas that boil down to the works-religion mentality that if we work harder things will get better. Problem is, whether it’s politics, relationships or whatever, change won’t come without a fundamental change in individuals from the inside out, with Jesus’ help. This seems obvious to us, but is really quite a foreign idea to many people here. The idea that God Almighty (if he exists at all) has become like us to establish a relationship with us so that we could become more like him, has been obscured by religion and all its trappings, plus the shortcomings of clergy, priests and leaders in general. It’s quite sad, but there is hope. The need is there and we pray for not only a hunger and thirst to experience something better, but for plenty of wisdom to live and articulate the hope that there is in Jesus.

I’ve been working on a puzzle (a yearly tradition); this year’s seems especially difficult. I was tempted to give up, but it seemed a voice was saying to persist, maybe as a parable of what we’re about here. Parts of putting together puzzles are fairly obvious, but other parts require lots of study, patience and trial and error. Doing the puzzle is a reminder to “seek until finding.” In our hearts, this new year, is a hope to see the Father continue to put together a group of true seekers that will find him, be transformed by his love and be gathered into little communities of faith. Our desire this year is that more pieces of the “puzzle” be found and that the picture would more clearly take shape. Blessings on you and your “puzzle” this new year.

*Last name omitted for security