Last January I took a good, hard look at my life and myself. I sat down and made not just a list of goals but also wrote detailed steps to meet those goals. I was determined not to let another year slip by without making progress on some big parts of my life that, let’s be honest, have been sorely neglected or abused. My health, my career, my relationships, my faith (not in that order, of course) – I was going to tackle them all with the determination and perseverance that would leave me a completely different person come this January.
Imagine me with laced up tennis shoes, full makeup, fresh notebooks, and a soundtrack full of Rocky theme songs. I was going to do this thing. I had a plan, and it was a good one. This would be my best year yet!
Then life happened. And it happened hard. Life overwhelmed my good intentions and my best-laid plans, and it left me tired and disappointed and a little bit confused about how I ended up here instead of there. I was reminded, again, that making plans doesn’t guarantee change. I remembered that only God is strong enough to change me, that only God is wise enough to know what plans I need to follow in the first place.
So here we are. Another year, another January. On one hand, it’s all fresh starts and new mercies, but on the other, it’s a letdown from what might have been an exhausting season. The world tells us we’re supposed to feel bright and shiny and new, excited and motivated and energetic, but some of us just want to hide away for a while, covered in blankets and ignoring the consequences of any overspending, overeating, or overdoing from recent days.
January is weird. Making goals and starting new creates conflicting emotions. And keeping resolutions is just about the hardest thing to do because a new calendar doesn’t mean I’m a new person. New year, new you is not really a thing.
But I think that’s okay.
Of course, I still long for a new me. That’s part of the human condition, part of the sanctification process. Sure, our salvation in Christ means we’ve died to our former selves, that we’re no longer slaves to sin. Yes, we’ve been reborn as children of God, holy in His sight simply due to the saving grace of Jesus. But even after all that (and thank God for that), I’m still a human person. I’m still fallible, and I still fall down. I still long for that brand-new, pure, and holy me that I’ll someday be in heaven.
Until then, January is going to be a struggle. I’m going to see the numbers of a new year on my phone and my laptop, and I’m going to be hopeful that this is the time I’ll get it all right. I’ll feel the itch to write down more goals and plans and steps, and none of this is a bad thing. However, I’ll probably also start thinking that if I just make the right goals and follow the right steps, I can plan myself out of my human-ness. I’ll begin believing I can lean on my own strength and understanding to become the best version of me – a new me. And then, in His infinite patience and grace, God will allow life to remind me of the impossibility of those delusions. He will bring me back to my knees and His presence, where I remember it’s only when I rely on His strength and seek His plans for my life that I can do anything at all.
Maybe January isn’t the weird one. Maybe it’s me and my all-or-nothing, now-or-never, extremist approach to the new year. Maybe it’s the way I disregard the small changes God has engineered in my life and my heart, or the way I refuse to remember whose strength can make a single goal or resolution possible. After all, when I’m honest, I must admit I struggle with this every month of the year, not just in January.
If you’re feeling the tension of a new year, take heart. Everything that makes January weird can be resolved when we turn to the Lord. For those of us feeling bloated, exhausted, or overwhelmed from the last year, He promises to give us rest. For those of us still feeling the pain of last year’s losses, He is right here with us. For those of us excited to turn to a new year with all of our best ideas and plans and dreams, He will guide us every step of the way. And for those of us afraid to take a chance or try again, He is here to give us the strength we need.
No matter how we start a new year, God is with us. And no matter how the year unfolds, He won’t leave us. I think that means this might actually be the best year yet.
No matter how we start a new year, God is with us. And no matter how the year unfolds, He won’t leave us. -@MaryCarver: Click To Tweet