I need to see your hands. Put the pen down and slowly back away from the list.
Before you begin your annual declaration of independence from unhealthy food and toxic people, before you purchase the gym membership or enlist your friends as accountability partners, before you buy clothing two sizes too small or a new car based on credit unseen because of the new vision you have of yourself in the New Year, we need to talk. We need to discuss the noteworthy realities of your life — not the top 10 movies, songs or news stories of the year.
It is easy to define our lives using the expressions and experiences of others. However, I would challenge both of us to live on our own terms — not as screaming fans of the airbrushed and photoshopped lives of others but as active participants in our own. So the events of your life weren’t among the popular hash tags or trending topics on Twitter. Your daily post of selfies on Instagram missed your like button quota by a long shot. Your God-given or family member-appreciated talent didn’t make you an instant YouTube sensation. It wasn’t viewed by millions of people and there may not be more than a handful who can relate to your experiences. What is the meaning of all of this for you and me anyway?
Put the phone down too unless, of course, you are reading this article. In this case, it is being put to good use. But don’t take another picture or record another video in the never-ending task of improving upon our image minute by minute and day after day. Instead, you need to see yourself for you and not for the followers that you hope to gain. So before we begin the countdown to the New Year, I think that we need to slow down.
James Finley believed, “When we meditate, we slow down so that we can begin to catch up with ourselves.” This, then, is an invitation to think about ourselves. Let’s think about who and why we are right now, which is not to be confused with or swapped out for the self we hope to be next year. And don’t rush yourself.
More than catching our breath after wrapping gifts and opening them, preparing meals and sharing in them, packing luggage and welcoming extended family, we could benefit from finding the person we have allowed to fall behind. We might want to slow down, go back and get ourselves. Because it is possible in our haste to begin the New Year and the celebrated quest for the new me to lose sight of who we are. Whatever the reason, we would rather count down to midnight than look at time present. That’s a ghost that we don’t want to visit us.
Besides, why do we need to? The unopened and unused days of the New Year, the sweet 16 of the millennium, is much more appealing than examining what was. No, the thrill of the chase of Jan. 1 is the possibility of what could be and who we can be. We could meet the right person. We could land the perfect job. We could finally lose those pounds that seem to hang on to us like a tantrum-throwing toddler.
The time calls for us to leave what didn’t work, what went wrong and who didn’t last. There is an unmarked dumpsite or a return center for all of these things somewhere. What was once labeled possibility, opportunity or even blessing is now marked baggage, garbage or loss.
This is why new sounds so much better. New shoes. New day. New Year. If there is new in front of it, then we’ll take it.
The word comes in plastic and with the tags still attached. It has not been worn yet. The word is so inviting and desirable that we sometimes forget that new is hard. Unlike the things and experiences that we purchase, newness in our lives requires change. It is not a change that we can countdown to. 10 … 9 … 8…
No, it probably won’t happen in minutes or seconds. It won’t come with fireworks or cheers or happen in a large crowd. It probably won’t be a part of the coveted list of things that we have to do.
Instead, it will come with time, with New Year after New Year. God’s hands are not an hour and minute hand. Change, meaningful change, is done in God’s timing. Whatever we think of our external reality and presence in the world, there is a treasure within — at least that is what the Apostle Paul tells the believers at Corinth (1 Cor. 4.7). So, do a careful review of your life and be mindful of what you throw away. It might be a candidate for newness.
Murderer of Christians turned martyr for Christ, Paul’s words ring truest in my ears. He reminds me that all of my time is new — not because of what I leave behind in this year or any other but because of what Christ left behind and lost so many years ago. He says, “For the love of Christ urges us on, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died. And he died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them. From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way. So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!” (2 Cor. 5.14-17, NRSV).
Our new is always now and our resolution is Christ’s. New does not begin with our clock but his cross. We need only see his hands. Happy New Life!
* This post is a part of my monthly column for Baptist News Global and was published on January 1, 2016.