Well, it looks like it is finally going to happen. The old year is about to pass and this weekend the new year will be ushered in. Is there anyone else in the house who is glad for that?
The beautiful part of a new year is that it gives us a chance to start fresh, begin again, look ahead with hope and anticipation for a year’s script that has yet to be written. But wait, isn’t that what we say every year at this time no matter what the past year hath wrought? Such dreams and anticipations of the future are notions to which we have gravitated for, well, forever it seems.
Take, for example, literary giant Samuel Johnson. In 1738, Johnson wrote in his diary: “Oh Lord, enable me to redeem the time which I have spent in sloth.” Nineteen years later, he wrote, “Oh mighty God, enable me to shake off sloth and redeem the time misspent in idleness and sin by diligent application of the days yet remaining.” He wrote some variation of this prayer every year after that. Finally, in 1775, 38 years after his first resolution, he wrote, “When I look back upon resolution of improvement and amendments which have, year after year, been made and broken, why do I yet try and resolve again? I try because reformation is necessary, and despair is criminal.”
Johnson was describing human life. We start every year thinking, “This is the year!” We resolve to turn over a new leaf, and this time we are serious. We promise ourselves we are going to quit bad habits and start good ones. We’re going to get in shape, eat better, waste less time, be more content, be more disciplined, and so forth. We are going to be better husbands, wives, fathers, mothers. And then, 12 months later, we have fallen short — again.
Personally, I welcome this time of the year with an open heart and open hands, knowing that the coming year has a lot of “hope” spelled within its calendar pages. But, like Johnson, I also face the new year with a lot of regrets, having fallen short of many of the goals I set at this time last year.
When it comes to unfulfilled goals, did you ever watch “Clean House”? That was the name for a television show on the Style Channel about 10 years ago where experts in cleaning, organizing, remodeling and painting swept into a cluttered home with the purpose of leaving it more comfortable, attractive and livable. The experts entered the home and faced the challenges of clothes strewn across the floor, bulging cabinets, closets filled from top to bottom, filled countertops, and overflowing kitchens, bedrooms, bathrooms and living rooms — not a clean room in the house.
The experts’ first step was to take an inventory of all the “stuff.” Then, decisions were made about what to sell at a yard sale and what to keep. This was perhaps the most difficult step because the home’s inhabitants always hesitated and tried to hold on to favorite clothes from years gone by, childhood keepsakes, space-taking trivia. But eventually, they yielded. The sale was held, and money came in to help with the makeover. Then the family left, and the work began.
Rooms were cleaned out, redone for more efficiency and attractiveness, and repainted. Curtains were hung, cabinets set, and walls decorated. A transformation took place. And when the family returned, what a difference it makes. Any nervous anticipation quickly gave way to excitement and laughter when the family saw what had taken place. The script for each episode was always the same: “Thank you, thank you,” the family uttered often amid smiles and tears.
In the spiritual realm, there comes a time for each of us to take inventory of what’s in our hearts, get rid of some things, and do some repairing and remodeling. When we change from one year to the next is generally the accepted time for such an inventory to take place. David knew this when he prayed: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.” (Psalm 139:23-24)
Like the families on the television show, who have an expert in remodeling and renovation upon whom they can rely, those of us who follow Christ also have an expert in remodeling and renovation. The gospel is the good news announcing Jesus’ infallible devotion to us despite our inconsistent devotion to him. We have it for ourselves in Jesus’ own words: “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.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
As this new year gets underway, take comfort in knowing that we are weak and He is strong. That even as our love for Jesus falls short, Jesus’ love for us never will. Furthermore, He is the only one who can make our makeover an astounding success that lasts longer than even the best new year’s resolution!
Chuck Tabor is a religion columnist for The Times-Gazette and former Hillsboro area pastor. He can be reached at email@example.com.