There’s something about a new year and all the “new” it brings… New is exciting. New is terrifying. New is…pretty much everything this time of year. January 1st is just another day, really. As are the other 364. But that one digit change at the end of the date from a 4 to a 5 tells us that we made it another 365 days. We can’t wait to finally close the book that was 2014 and dive into the crisp, clean pages of 2015. But sometimes we get so wrapped up in new new new that we forget the importance of the old.
Now don’t get me wrong – new beginnings are a good thing. There are times in each of our lives when we just need a fresh start. But too often we take that to mean that we need to start over completely from scratch…wiping our slates clean, forgetting the past year, and resolving to focus only on the year ahead.
Again, the intentions are great, but here is where we need a shift in perspective.
Whoever said we have to be completely out with the old to welcome in and embrace the new?
Sure, maybe you had just a downright crappy year. But how much did God teach you and mold you in that time? How many intense, yet valuable lessons did you learn when your world was upside-down? How much growth came from the most unfortunate circumstances?
…And how much beauty was birthed from the pain, frustration, anger and confusion? How many tears did God turn from sorrow to joy? How many screams did He transform into laughter? How many headaches faded to make way for smiles?
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” – Romans 8:28
ALL things. Not just the fun times, but the miserable ones, too. Not just your highs, but your lows. God works all of these things together for our good! Sometimes that can be hard to see, of course. But when we stop dwelling in the negatives, we beginto see all the positive things the Lord has done and the light He has brought from our darkest moments.
Now let’s turn the tables a little bit. Maybe you’re like me and your year wasn’t all that bad. It wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows, of course, but for the most part…you can’t complain. Or maybe it was great! So you don’t need me telling you not to chuck your memories out the window. But it’s actually just as easy when you have a good year to fall into this “out with the old, in with the new” mentality!
This is exactly where I found myself recently. I approached the new year expecting big, exciting, radical lessons. I learned a lot about myself and about the Lord over the past year, and I appreciate every single lesson. But I’m ready to go deeper. I’m ready for more. I’m ready for new.
So right off the bat I was looking for it. That first big experience of many sure to come this year that would open my eyes and stretch my faith. I was ready. Watching. Waiting…
…And here we are, just about at the end of January. And all that’s come my way is just the same old, same old.
I let that discourage me for days, thinking maybe I was doing something wrong. It felt like I just wasn’t growing the way I thought I would, and I thought maybe my heart wasn’t in the right place. Maybe I wasn’t seeking the Lord enough. Maybe I wasn’t spending enough time reading my Bible to be learning anything in the first place.
But it didn’t take long for God to clear the lies and redirect my focus.
You see, while I was searching for big, new challenges, I was ignoring other equally important lessons He was trying to teach me…lessons I have already learned, but constantly need refreshed on. It’s easy to think since I’ve already “been there, done that,” I don’t need to reevaluate basic things like pride, patience, forgiveness, grace, etc. So when I feel the Lord reminding me to check my bitter heart at the door and find joy in all circumstances, I feel the need to remind Him that I already checked that one off the list a while ago. Or when He starts loosening my grasp on my wallet, I grip tighter and kindly inform Him that I know what I’m doing.
Somehow in setting our sights on all the new that we know God has in store for us this year, we tend to forget that we never mastered the old (and never will!). By tossing out the old to find the new, we assume that past lessons have nothing more to offer us and we have nothing more to learn from them.
So whether your year was fantastic or much less than perfect, let’s not forget 2014. Instead, build upon it. Take those old lessons and put them into practice this year. Let experiences in your past drive you towards hope and surrender. Let memories of God’s goodness, in the good times and the bad, bring motivation and confidence to say…
2015…bring it on.