2013 is taking its last few breaths before handing us over to 2014. As with every time a new year greets us, this is an opportunity to reflect on what transpired during the past 364 days. Although some people take this as a chance to harp on every failed expectation that fell between the calendar pages [and then adamantly resolve to do better in the coming year], I think it is better used as a time to celebrate the past year and anticipate the one to come.
To remind ourselves of all the blessings and milestones and grace and surpassed expectations that we encountered over the last 12 months.
To delight in the fact that we have a whole new year looking at us, waiting to be filled with adventure and challenge and triumph.
A new year is a new chance for faith, to trust that the 365 days to come have already been seen by the Creator and that even now He is preparing us for what lies ahead, though we don’t yet know exactly what that will be. For some, 2014 will be a battlefield. For others it will be a training ground, and for others yet it will be a stage. For most of us, it will be a mix of all three. The specifics may be uncertain, but we can be certain of this- He will see us through.
Many of you may be thinking of what to cast as your New Year’s resolutions for 2014, and there are plenty of people out there with suggestions for you [like this list that’s been making the rounds]. But if I may, I’d like to suggest something else.
What if we take this hopeful expectation and carry it with us throughout the entire year? By the grace of God, this clean slate represented by the changing of years is something that we can have each and every day. I’d even go so far as to say that we’re called to do so. New Year’s resolutions are intended to cement our commitment to a certain change in some aspect of life, whether it’s advancing in the professional world or quitting an unhealthy habit or cultivating a talent. There’s no denying that committing oneself to such change can be wonderful and productive and beneficial. I’m asking though, is it enough?
Our dreams are too tame.
Our challenges are too mild.
Our efforts are too weak.
We want change but we need transformation.
I say all this as someone who is a grade-A obsessive-compulsive neurotic geek. Resolutions and action plans are my cocaine. So I’m not saying you shouldn’t make a New Year’s resolution and work towards it with zeal. Set goals. Make a timeline. Hold yourself accountable. Enjoy achieving what you set your mind to. Just don’t ever let yourself forget that you’re not living in a calendar, you’re living in the mystery of eternity. Time has a way of giving us tunnel-vision, and those blinders get in the way of living as richly and fully as we were made to. This is something that has been on my mind since I reread the book of Romans last week. No amount of yearly resolutions can change us into the men and women we are called to be.
“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but
by the renewing of your mind.”
Think about it: We make resolutions – at the start of the new year, and at any other time – because we know we are not enough. We see our shortcomings and seek to remedy them; we see our potential and seek to realize it. These endeavors are noble, but they are not sufficient for the task. The only way to be profoundly and permanently changed for the better is to allow ourselves to be transformed by the Spirit of God. We must be made new from the inside out [“…by the renewing of your mind”], and it does not happen by a singular process to which we commit for a week, month, or year in order to achieve the desired result. Renewing our minds, or rather allowing God to do so in us, is a continual process.
With a moment-by-moment commitment to embracing His ways over all else, we are transformed further and further into the individuals we were made to be. Transformation is a fundamental change. It alters our identity and perspective, which will become manifest in how we think and act and speak and relate to the rest of creation. It is the kind of change that far surpasses anything we imagine for ourselves at the start of a new year. It is wilder and fiercer and more brilliant than we would ever dare hope for, and this is what we should devote ourselves to for not just this year and every other, but for every moment. We should commit ourselves to seeking our Creator and walking with Him, inviting Him into our lives, allowing Him to challenge and fortify us, and laying aside our preconceptions and prejudices and dreams and asking that He let us see through His eyes, work as His hands, and love out of His abundance. This is no New Year’s resolution we are dealing with, it is the divine handiwork of God Himself.
Resolutions are helpful, but they are finite. They fit neatly into a calendar year. We don’t. Anyone who has ever felt the power of a moment that stretches on, or thought that time slips too quickly through our hands understands that we are not made for time in the sense that we know it on earth. Our lives transcend our pocket watch faces and calendar pages, and we don’t answer to some great grandfather clock but to the Father of Eternity. In the grandeur and the grit that will color this next year, we can be assured of this- He is with us, and He is good. Let us walk with Him, abide in Him, and be transformed by Him…not just for the next year, but for eternity.
“May the road rise up to meet you,
may the wind be ever at your back,
may the sun shine warm upon your face
and the rain fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
and until we meet again,
may you be held in the hollow of God’s hand.”
[traditional Irish proverb]