I got a new car because my babies are turning 16 and they will be driving my old car. It is fresh and clean, without dents or scratches, my phone connects with Bluetooth now so I don’t have to continually replace my charger that ends up a frayed fire hazard, and did I mention clean?!?!
I will miss my old car — the miles we have trekked on our road trip adventures, the music we have blared and I have sung loudly off-key to, and the endless hours spent waiting in car line or driving to after-school activities — okay, maybe I won’t miss that part!
New is fun and exciting, that is, until the new is no longer so new and it starts to lose some of its sparkle and the enthusiasm starts to wane.
The same seems to hold true for the New Year, it feels so fresh and full of promise in the beginning, that is, until it starts to feel just like the year before and the year before that.
I make resolutions because I want change in my life, and I welcome the opportunity to begin again with determination, planning to leave the old behind me. I close the door to the past, maybe even barricading it, resolving that things will be different this year.
But then time marches on, and the new year isn’t so new anymore and the life I had apparently didn’t receive the memo that it was supposed to go away and not come back.
Which leaves me with the age-old question: How do I hold onto my resolutions? How do I keep up my enthusiasm and determination when life throws wrenches in my plans?
I have made a list of four essentials that I have been learning, and will continue to learn, and thought they might be helpful to you also!
- Approach the next 365 days one day at a time.
“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning. Great is your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:22-23
Even though I may grow weary and lose heart, God never does. He remains steadfast, true and faithful. He reminds me that I never reach the end of beginning again because I never reach the end of His loving mercy. The hope I have at the start of a new year, is the same hope I can hold onto at the start of each new day, each new hour, each new minute. Sometimes the goals I set for the new year can seem daunting because it feels impossible. Just like it takes many steps to reach the top of a mountain; it takes many days to reach the end of the year — 365 to be exact. I won’t get there all at once. I climb a mountain one step at a time and I conquer a year one day at a time. I need to take each day as it comes — successes, setbacks and mishaps. Life is more than the goals I set and achieve, it’s about how I grow and learn along the way. Each day is a gift of grace, mercy and love and I will miss the view where I am standing if I am constantly looking ahead, worried that I will never reach my destination.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: the old has gone, the new is here!” 2Corinthians 5:17
So often I become fixated on what needs to be done, the goals I need to set, and I forget to celebrate what has already been done. That desire I have to be made new is the same desire God has for me. In fact, He is giving it to me. Because of Jesus, the fresh clean start I yearn for can be a reality. I no longer have to be defined by who I have been or where I have come from because Christ’s love for me is powerful enough to cover all the parts of my story for His glory. I think that is worth some fireworks, fancy dresses and all-night celebrations. But here’s the catch: it will require faith. I will never experience how wide, how deep, how long and how wide God’s love is for me until I put my foot into the raging river of His love. Much like the priests that encountered the turbulent Jordan River in the book of Joshua. It wasn’t until they placed their feet into the menacing river that the waters parted, and I won’t experience God in a meaningful way and begin living out my new life until I choose faith in what Christ has accomplished for me, stepping into my new life of dependency on Christ and out of my old life of reliance on myself.
3. Take Inventory.
“Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!” Psalm 139: 23-24
The start of each new year is an opportunity to not just look forward to the possibilities of what lies ahead, but to look back at what has been — the tragedies and triumphs, happiness and heartaches, rejoicing and regrets. I am biased towards my own perspective, and I will only start to get a fuller picture of myself when I am willing to ask God to search me, unveil my wild and unruly heart, show me my stubborn and destructive inclinations. This happens in prayer as I spend time with God: sharing, asking and listening. I need His Word to hold up a mirror for my soul, allowing the double-edge sword to pierce me to the core and reveal what lies hidden beneath the surface — the motives and beliefs that drive me in my daily life decisions. I am only made new to the extent that I relinquish the old, but I need help figuring out what needs to be thrown out. God is the ultimate remodeler, sorry Chip and Joanna Gaines, and He wants to change me from the inside out, rather than my approach of tidying up the outer facade. He is ready to start working all the way down to the foundation as soon as I tell Him thats what I want. That is not the easiest prayer to pray!
4. Be empowered.
“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 5:13
I often try to change my life through sheer willpower and self-determination. I have been trained that if I just follow these steps, do this or don’t do that, I can change my behavior. Sometimes it works, but sometimes I just replace one bad behavior with another, or find short-lived success. Focusing on outer behavior is like trimming the branches of a tree whose roots are damaging the foundation of my house. The roots that are damaging my foundation are the beliefs that are ingrained in me that are contrary to my faith in Christ. Am I lacking in peace? What is my belief that is is feeding that? Am I lacking in joy? What beliefs do I have about joy? Where is my hope anchored? Am I placing my peace, joy and hope on myself: my own abilities and shortcomings, my successes and failures, my life circumstances that change like shifting sand? What belief is feeding my despair and discontent? It is only when I reach the end of myself, realizing my power is limited, and my anchor won’t hold against the constant crashing waves, that I recognize my need for a greater power to transform my beliefs. I need help believing that I have been made new in Christ. Fortunately, the Holy Spirit’s middle name is Helper. That’s right, Holy Helper Spirit, and His desire far surpasses mine to walk in faith as a new creation. I may not have the power, but when I am dependent on Him, His power flows through me. He empowers me to be who He created me to be — thank goodness!
So rather than focus on all the things I would like to work on about myself, I will choose to focus on One thing, one day at a time — my relationship with God. And I will trust that He will make my path straight and lead me where I need to go and give me the strength and wisdom I need along the way. I am letting go of trying to make myself new, and pressing into the newness that is already mine in Christ.