I love the thought of beginning again. I like January 1st. I like the first thing in the morning feeling. I enjoy the beginning of the school year. New beginnings hold so much promise, so much hope. Last year wasn’t all that I hoped for. Yesterday held its fair share of disappointments. I didn’t do as well last year as I had hoped. But now… now I get to start again!
On a more “spiritual” note, I have always loved that about forgiveness. While I am so grateful that the past sin is covered over, I probably enjoy more the thought of getting to start fresh and clean – to begin again. Maybe this time I can do better. Maybe I can avoid that sin this go round. Maybe I can be different?
New Years’ Resolutions are all about the chance to do it differently. We can pick two or three things that matter and resolve (whatever that means) to do better, to be more focused or intentional. This year, yes this year, I can be different. I will be different!
But how? Will I find some creative way to hold myself accountable? Will I lower my expectations a bit so that I have a better chance to meet my resolutions? Will I get a friend to encourage me and ask how I am doing? Will I read books? Take lessons? Hire a trainer? What does it take for me to seize this opportunity to change, to improve, to become more of who I think I should be?
Over the years, I have tried all of the above. I have been accountable. I have lowered my expectations. I have joined groups, read books, and prayed a lot. Over the years, the need to be different hasn’t changed – but either the urgency to take big steps or the hope that I can become a dramatically better or different person or both have diminished. The data of my life, or some kind of objective observation of it, would tell you that I do change, some, in small ways, both for the good and the bad, usually very gradually. My efforts actually don’t provide the primary impetus to my biggest changes. Rather, it is the struggles of my life that get below the “trying harder” to the core foundation of my heart and character. Real change only comes through struggle. Real change only comes when I face a certain desperate need for God to do something for me and in me that I can’t do myself.
So what do I do with that? Do I stop planning, resolving, initiating? No, I don’t think so. Some of that planning and resolving puts me in the places where God can work in the ways that only He can. Some of it helps me stay as close as I am to being “on track”. And some of it, particularly the parts that involve my relationships, with God and with people, point me in the directions where God does challenge my heart.
But in the end, I am not betting on how much I change. I am betting on the One who will change me in the twinkling of an eye. I am betting on the One who does forgive and give fresh starts… and forgives and gives fresh starts. I am betting on the One who came to save me. Because He knew I couldn’t try hard enough to save myself.
Palmer Trice is an ordained Presbyterian minister. He is married to Lynne, has three children and has been in Charlotte since 1979. In his spare time, Palmer enjoys golf, tennis, walking and reading.