Can anything really be new?
My wife really likes this time of year. She likes reading “Best Of” lists from the year before. We clean house and reorganize. She geeks out over buying a new planner. She’s not alone, I suspect.
There’s just something in all of us that craves the new.
But can anything really be made new? We sure hope so.
There’s a lot of lamentable “old.” It’s tiring.
Bad news is old.
Death is old.
Cancer is old.
Divorce is old.
Addiction is old.
Division is old.
Poverty is old.
Barely making it, feeling alone, not knowing how you’re going to make it to the next paycheck — it’s all old.
But can just flipping the calendar over really make things new?
To listen to the cultural conversation, you’d think so. We make promises to ourselves and call them resolutions. But we’re not very resolute — most of us won’t keep our promises and what’s new will be old again by March.
We can declutter and lose ten pounds and quit smoking and still be miserable. I’ve learned something really important over the years — sometimes the hard way — that is worth noting at this time of year:
The only way to really be out with the old and in with the new is for the new to come from the inside.
This battle we have between new and old is an internal one. It is also an eternal one. The Scriptures say we, along with all of creation, groan for redemption — which is another way of saying we want the old stuff to be renewed into something lasting and beautiful.
The Scriptures also say that only Jesus can make things new. The good news is, he makes all things new. All things.
We want new. We need it, in fact. The old is killing us. It’s depressing. Aren’t you?
“I’m so tired of this…”
“Same song, different day…”
“When am I gonna catch a break?”
If you want to experience newness and a fresh start, I would encourage you not to simply look at the extra weight around your middle or to building new shelving in your garage or not drinking soda. I would encourage you to think about what’s going on inside you.
What are your deepest desires?
What are your dreams?
What anxious thoughts flood your brain when you’re still and silent?
What internal work have you left undone for years now?
I spent the second half of last year doing a great deal of personal work. It landed me in a counselor’s office, talking to mentors and friends, and reconsidering many things I’d always assumed were true. It took me to some sacred spaces where I sought to re-order my life internally, not externally. I’m developing core values and a rhythm of life that, if I’m going to remain healthy, I have to maintain. Most of it would be invisible to anyone watching. It’s not externally evident. It’s inside work. It has involved changing the way I think, process information, and allowing myself to feel.
A clean garage looks great, and it can make you feel super productive for about fifteen minutes. A few years ago I lost close to forty pounds — for the second time in my adult life — and I’ve gained about twenty-five of it back. We are not the weight we lose or the habits we quit. Nor are we the weight we gain back or the habits we cannot cease.
Personal organization won’t fix all our problems and weight loss doesn’t really make us a new person. To be a new person, we have to start where no one can see. This is a considerably harder work. It is an uncomfortable work. But if you want to be made new, I suggest you start deep down inside yourself where only you and Jesus know what is really going on.
Hand him control and let him do his own reorganizing.
May 2019 be one where you discover afresh who you are and experience newness and wholeness and health like you never have before.
Happy New Year.
This article originally appeared in The Salem News, a paper for which I write a bi-monthly column.