January 6, 2017

“Life is like riding a bicycle.” Albert Einstein says. “To keep your balance, you must keep moving.”   Well that’s life.  It’s a journey that makes us keep moving. When a new year dawns we like to say to each other: Happy New Year! This simple greeting holds much promise, boldness, and potential. Happy New Year! It invokes so much hope and courage within all of us! It also poses so many open-ended and unanswered questions:

  • What will this year be like?
  • What new relationships and connections will I form this year?
  • Will things finally work out for me at school, at work, or in my relationships?
  • What will the future hold? Will I finally finish high school, start a new job, or go back to school? Will I finally reach the goals I set for myself in 2016 ? Will I get healed?
  • Will I meet someone to share my life with?

The new year is also a great time to break with habits and thoughts that failed us in the past year and to imagine a new reality.  Maybe you want to deepen your relationship with God or deepen your connections with others. Perhaps you want to break old habits that rob you of life. Or maybe you just want to start the new year practicing gratitude and finding the joy it brings.  Happy New Year! It invites us to forget everything that happened last year, especially our bad experiences, bad memories.  “Don’t worry, Be happy. Leave the past in the past.”  We like to say.  We have so much to look forward to, we are greeting and welcoming a new year, and a new me and new you too. The Babylonians, who are credited with creating this annual celebration, were a clever bunch. Taking a rather unremarkable transition of no special significance–the passing of time–and infusing it with so much hope, promise, and potential. In the matter of a second, everything that was past, is gone, and behold, it’s a new day, a new year, a new you! This is an universal celebration.  Almost every culture around the world celebrates the passing of another year. It’s a perfect occasion to take inventory of the past 365 days and reflect, sometimes looking back on regrets, failures, mistakes, but also reflecting with hope and gratitude. I made it. Maybe this year will be better. And this propels us forward, making resolutions to ourselves and others.   “I want this year to be better than last year.” It’s all leaning into our desire to live healthier, stress-free, longer lives. Jesus wants much of the same thing for us, but he also wants more. While many of our resolutions revolve around what the culture dictates – diets, exercise, organization – He wants us to live lives of meaning and purpose, lives that are full and joyful, lives that are free from anxiety and worry, and lives that are dependent on God. Therefore Jesus said , “I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. Our New Year’s resolutions are our attempt to take control over what went wrong last year and prevent it from happening again in the New Year. But we are led astray believing the misnomer of the “new year” since nothing actually changes in us on New Year’s Day. We may resolve to… but until we actually do… everything is the same. That’s because transformation doesn’t happen all at once, in an instant, or as a mere exercise of will. In spite of us “willing” it to be so. Our transformation involves our will, but doesn’t end there. Transformation starts with our surrender. About 92% of us fail completely at our new year’s resolutions and over 50% of us have given up by the end of January. We fail because we don’t understand how change works. When people decide to change something, they believe they can muster their “willpower” and set about trying to change some behavior. Except we don’t change as a matter of will. Our transformation starts with our surrender. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  says God. Transformation starts with surrender because we have to be willing to believe something about ourselves that Jesus teaches: we aren’t who we think we are. It’s hard to accept what Jesus is offering as true unless we are willing to take seriously the possibility that what we presently believe is not true. We start our transformation with our acceptance of God’s kindness, forbearance, and patience.   Accepting God’s kindness, forgiveness, and patience is a matter of faith.  It’s like letting go some of the things in our life.    The same way like, you’re been holding onto a rope for dear life and then Jesus says, “trust me” so you have to let go. You have to let go of fear, control, and power, and fall into powerlessness and vulnerability, suspending your disbelief, and trust that you are falling up into God’s love, kindness, forgiveness, and acceptance. In a letter to Romans, Paul says: “Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin?”  As you surrender, consider that you are surrendering to the God that Jesus trusted with his life and said was always good and at work for you and your benefit. What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?  So when we think of the new year and how we can make it meaningful to us we can start with the basic truth that God is good.  It might be helpful for us to take this time of the new year to write down our hopes and dreams and present them to God in prayer.  As we do this, try to become aware of the way that we are striving on our own to achieve these hopes and dreams or expecting others to get with our plans and help us. Doing this will give God a chance to speak to us about whether he has the same hopes and dreams for us and if so, whether we are trusting him to make them happen.

Always continue to trust in God as you begin this new year.

Wish you Happy New Year!