Oh, I have something special to share with you today: a guest post from one of my favorite writers on the internet: Tresta Payne. I was encouraged and challenged by what she’s offered here, and I hope you will be, as well.
All creation groans for a new beginning, and here we have January–the clean slate of new calendars and new planners and new expectations. The two-week period after Christmas, when we take down the tree, pack away the Christmas decor, give everything a good cleaning and prepare for a new year, is my favorite.
Often my own groanings are more about regrets and missed opportunities, though, rather than an earnest expectation of glory to come, and a new year can look like the false hope of The Year We Finally Do Things Right.
The trap is in thinking that new equals better, that starting over fresh will create an opportunity to live failure-free. When I wake in the night with the crushing burden of all my shortcomings–some of which are real and true and some of which are just the enemy’s rummaging through my garbage–the way out of the trap is not to develop a new plan or system or list, though I try.
The way out is only ever through Jesus.
If everything had gone perfectly this last year, my eyes would not be refocused on the Jesus Who takes me out of the wilderness where I wander. I would be tempted to think my plans had succeeded, my ideas were brilliant, my life was under my control.
This means that failure is actually a gift to me.
For every time I have asked the Lord to remind me of HIs presence in my life, failure has been readily available to do the work. I am only just beginning to see it that way, and certainly the Lord has given successes and blessings beyond measure; but when I wake in the night under the heavy oppression of failure, I can sometimes manage to turn that sword of accusation back on itself and proclaim the goodness of a God Who even gives a crown to losers.
When all else fails: God is my hope. When everything is a success: God is my hope.
What I always need this time of year is some truthful reflection. Some things worked for me, some things didn’t. In the end, did I learn some lessons and draw closer to Jesus, or did I strive and micro-manage a life that had no margin for error?
Big-picture living keeps me sane in the moments when life wants to boil me down to This Most Important Event or Thing or Success or Feeling. I can pull back from all that and rest, again, in the work that is already finished on my behalf. I can rest, even in my failed attempts to do better and be better and live better, knowing that Jesus is loving me just the same and giving me the strength to begin again.
I am more likely to make a “more/less” list than a particular set of goals for the new year. It will inevitably look something like this:
- more printed pictures
- more whole foods
- more Sunday dinners with the grandparents
- more nature in the house
- less clutter in the living room
- less sugar and bread
- less spending
- less mindless internet
I do have actual, real, tangible goals to accomplish this year, and I am making plans for them, but these general guidelines of more/less are simple enough to be reviewed monthly without making me feel overwhelmed. Because there are no specific quantifiers, I can adjust expectations according to the need of the moment, rather than trying to live by some lofty ideals I set in January when the whole year was nothing but blank pages and possibility. And when I’ve added the right things and subtracted the wrongs things, I have more space for those goals.
Beginning again is the story of my days: each January, the change of every season, the first of every month, every Sunday, every morning before the sun–and if I’m careful, even every first minute of the hour–I can recalibrate my heart and mind to the work that is already done and the gift I have to spend in this moment.
It is too easy to be tied down with the pursuit of more and better, even in our quest for godly living. But God has sent Jesus into the world that we might live through Him (1 John 4:9), not that we might strive endlessly to do more and be better for Him. All creation groans for the new world of kingdom-come when things will be set right, but we also have the kingdom-now, Christ in us, the hope of glory and new life. Every moment we surrender can be a relief of the burden of our failures.
This very moment is new and Christ gave His life so we could live it through Him. this is the best beginning ever, and it’s endless and always available.
Tresta is a lifelong-learner who lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and 4 kids, surrounded by mountains and rivers and the best little community one could ask for. She writes about balance, perspective, and simplicity at trestapayne.com, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.