It is impossible to be looking into a new year without looking back into the past one. This time of year often stirs us to take a look at our lives and ourselves, which in turn prompts us to make attempts at changing. Our attempts may be well-intended, but studies show that about 80% of all resolutions are broken by mid-February. That seems surprising, but it really isn’t when you think about it. I mean, after all, where do these resolutions come from? They are like short-term relationships that are doomed to fail from the beginning. But why? I believe it’s because of the manner in which we enter into them. Like most things in our society, we start off great but lose the ability to follow through when things get tough. It’s easier to just throw in the towel and revert back to the familiar because it’s what we’ve always known. As they say, “Better the devil you know that the devil you don’t.”
True changes don’t come easy. They are uncomfortable, even painful at times. They come at inopportune moments or cause us to lose things we really, really don’t want to let go of on our own. Those of you who have read my posts this year will understand when I say 2019 was a challenging year. I’ve caught myself saying a lot lately that I hate 2019 and can’t wait for 2020. The truth is, 2020 isn’t going to change anything. It isn’t a new year that changes us; it is we who change the new year. As the new year got closer, I noticed my perspective on last year starting to shift. I actually started to see things differently, and my heart softened to the experiences in 2019 that left me curled up in a ball, crying myself to sleep so many nights, thinking I just can’t get through another day. Every day brought tears and pain, but as I looked backwards, I began to see through those times to the incredible experiences and growth that has happened as a result of them. It really has been amazing. I am not the person I was a year ago, and for that I am grateful.
When looking back at the past year, most people talk about life events, changes, gains and losses, and other things that have taken place. It is easier for us to talk about what has happened to (or around) us than to talk about what has gone on within us. Looking inward requires us to strip down and be honest with ourselves about what we see. For me, this past year has brought so many of those moments that I’ve lost count! Maybe it’s because life in general was so full of loss and griefs that I didn’t have the energy to keep pressing on in the same way I had for most of my life. Was it a brutal year? Absolutely! I wouldn’t wish it on anyone, but it wasn’t without purpose. Through the difficulties, I’ve learned to let go a little more. I still struggle with it, but I’m finding peace in the liberation when I do.
If I were to articulate the long list of events and how they’ve changed me, I’d be writing all night. However, if you were to ask me to name the single most life-altering thing I’ve experienced in 2019, well, that answer is easy. It wasn’t leaving the church I belonged to for over 20 years, the loss of my husband’s parents, or even the fact my dad had to move into a memory care facility due to dementia. Those things certainly altered my life in huge ways, but the biggest reverberation in my life came from the teaching and study I have been a part of in the home church to which I belong. It happened totally organically a year ago, and I could not have dreamed how amazing it would become. The teaching our pastor has continually shared with us has been the most liberating of my life. Some of that impact comes from the fact he is real and vulnerable with us, while some of the impact is the way we are challenged through our discussions to live life differently. It is certainly not a traditional format, but I’ve been changed more in the past year than I can ever remember being changed in the past. It’s just different, and as a result, so am I. In the middle of the worst year of my life, God brought me through it by first using a man who was willing to answer His call, then surrounding me with a group of believers who have all been called to come together to be real in this journey of learning and following Christ’s example of who we were created to be. It is this realness in every aspect of life, the sharing of our struggles and truly bearing each other’s burdens that has only deepened our desire to learn more, and to be changed more. It is this unique experience that has changed my life forever. What I’ve learned has been gut-wrenching at times, but it is amazing what God will show you about yourself if you will just get your eyes off of everyone else. I’ve been liberated from old perspectives, of myself and others. I’ve even been liberated from some specific chains that have held me captive my entire life.
2020 begins a brand new year, and i’s a great time to tackle something new or set goals for what we want to accomplish. It’s a good time to reflect on the past year, or longer, and appreciate the difficulties we have come through or even the ones we are still trudging through. But it is also a good time to look deep within and start focusing on the things that bring lasting changes. I don’t want to make a resolution, or several of them. I don’t want another task in my life to complete; I have enough of those. I want to continue to truly change. It isn’t easy to do, but there is some truth to the phrase, “no pain, no gain.” If any of us want to learn how to live with peace, joy and strength even in our toughest times, we must be willing to turn our eyes honestly inward through the truth of God’s word and see what we really need to change. It may surprise you what you find. A year ago, I thought I knew who I was, but I have learned I wasn’t nearly the person I had hoped.
Life can, and will, beat you up. I don’t want to spend 2020 with the pessimistic mindset that crept in over recent years, but rather with the peace that comes from knowing God will always be working in the lives of His children. I don’t want my inner dialogue to keep telling me things won’t work out, or that things aren’t “fair.” I don’t want my “justice gene” to cause me to look down on others or take things personally. I want to continue to be open to God revealing those things in me that I have chosen to be blind to in the past. In doing so last year, I’ve experienced a liberation I did not see coming, and it changed my life.
As I mentioned earlier, it isn’t a new year that changes us; it’s we who change the new year. We can choose to keep doing the same things we’ve always done. We can choose to hide behind our despair or lash out in anger. We can choose to focus on the splinter in someone else’s eye instead of the log in our own (Matthew 7:3). The reality is that we can just keep on trucking and wonder why the abundant life keeps eluding us, or we can choose to be changed by the One who created us.
It is impossible for us to know what the new year will bring, but if we open ourselves up to what can change us far longer than any resolution, we can weather any storm because we know the master of the wind. It’s up to us…choose wisely.
Happy New Year and blessings to you and yours.