I would bet it is safe to say that in the past year we have all seen our fair share of tragedies, natural disasters, senseless acts of violence, political madness or our own personal struggles. As a result, most of us are ready to leave this year behind and move forward into something better. But what makes January 1st so special? Why do we engage in all kinds of activities and celebrations to ring in the new year? What makes us believe things will actually be different?
It is the spark of hope that burns somewhere inside us, refusing to completely give up on the promise of tomorrow. No matter how difficult the past year has been, we all know tomorrow could bring something entirely new, something entirely different. We believe our lives could take a turn for the better in the coming year. We “hope” for certain things to change in our lives and often we make commitments to ourselves to help bring those changes about.
At the end of each year, most of us take time to pause and remember the struggles we’ve endured and the great blessings we have been given. Sometimes we breathe a sigh of relief that this terrible year is finally passing away. Sometimes we take a deep breath filled with gratitude for the blessings we’ve received or for having been brought through circumstances that seemed insurmountable. It is this type of reflection that brings clarity to our lives. When we view things in retrospect, we are able to see them more objectively. We are able to see where we have not lived up to our potential or have had our priorities out of line with what we say we believe about God, life or ourselves. If we engage in this type of honest reflection, it reminds us of what is important. It clarifies our passions, desires and dreams. We remember who we are and what we have truly been called to do or be. So we resolve. We resolve to be better people. We resolve to spend more time with our families and friends. We resolve to get healthy and fit. We resolve to ask for help or to be more helpful to others. As Christians, we resolve to return to our first love. We promise ourselves that THIS is the year we will focus on truly making God our King and follow wherever He leads. We tell ourselves we are going to learn more of His word and then live it in our daily lives. We find ourselves inspired and filled with purpose so we leap into the New Year with great hope and passion! We are on fire!
Then life happens.
We get back into the grind of our jobs or home responsibilities. We get caught up in paying the bills or the stress that comes with not being able to pay them. We get sick. We lose someone or something we love. We find ourselves completely exhausted in every way – physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Life happens and suddenly the spark within us begins to fade. The passion we had is replaced with the oppression of our circumstances. Suddenly we find ourselves in a year that is just the same as every year before it and our attention turns from celebrating the hope of great things to simply surviving until the next “new year.”
I have great news for you! THERE IS NOTHING SPECIAL ABOUT JANUARY 1ST! It is just another day. It may be the beginning of a new year on the calendar but life is not measured in years, or even months for that matter. Life is measured in days, in moments and in breaths. Is “New Year’s Day” a good time to start making changes in your life? Absolutely! But so is every other day. (And for the record, unless you were actually born on January 1st, it isn’t your “new year” anyway. Your new year begins on your birthday!) The reality is that every day of your life is really “New Year’s Day.” If I don’t live up to the resolutions I make, it doesn’t mean I am confined to living a dull, meaningless and stressful life until the next year. It means I made some poor decisions today! It doesn’t mean I have to continue to make those same poor decisions tomorrow.
My point is this: every breath you take in this life is the beginning of a new year. Every moment you are alive, you can reflect and remember where you’ve been, who you are, and who you want to be. In every moment you can make the decision to live your passions and your dreams. You can decide, for right now, to follow where God is leading you. You can make a commitment that you will pursue what you are called to do whether it is big or small. And tomorrow, should you find yourself overwhelmed with the struggles of day to day life or the weight of your failures, don’t dismay. Don’t beat yourself up; there are enough people around you who will be glad to do that for you. Instead, bow your head, pray or meditate, and then let go of whatever happened last year. Remember, “last year” ends right now. It ends today, no matter what the date on the calendar may say.
So no matter when you are reading this, “Happy New Year!” May your new year be filled with peace and contentment, passion and joy. Most of all, may it be filled with love.