It’s the start of a new year and because breathing is essential to life no matter what year it is, we crossed over exhaling the last of 2018, inhaling the fresh burst of 2019. (Tip for the new year: pay attention to the freshness of your breath when you’re doing a lot of heavy breathing.) Something new is here and it brought the end to something old.
Maybe you’re drinking in the breath of promise, the hope of something new. A new look, a new plan, a new orientation. The problem that plagued 2018, it’s so last year—you’re not going to give it any head space in 2019. The image that took you a little by surprise when you walked past the mirror, it’s fading fast. It’ll be new and improved after several weeks of focus. You’re marching into 2019 paying no attention to things of old but instead keeping your eyes peeled for the new thing that is coming.
Or maybe you crept into the new year looking over your shoulder. Are you crossing over in fear—what is the new thing that’s coming? Why does it have to come? The old thing was good. It was known, comfortable, cozy. Surely the good that brought you into 2019 was better than what’s yet to come. You’re crawling forward because you have no choice, but you’re doing it while looking behind you, longing for what’s past, facing the future with fear.
And, just maybe, you can say a hearty ‘yes’ to both scenarios. There are things in your past that have you running away from them with the intensity of an Olympic sprinter. But you’re not running forward in a straight line—you’re zig-zagging all over the place trying to get away from where you’ve been while avoiding landmines on the way to where you’re going.
Stop for a second—no matter which scenario best describes you. Can I ask you a question before you start again? What’s driving you? What fuel are you putting in your tank to carry you forward? Hard work? Pure grit and determination? Organizational flow-charts or colourful vision boards? Metaphorical promises of chocolate to reward eating the kale? (Been there done that. Both literally and metaphorically.) That’ll work as long as it works. What will you do when it doesn’t?
What I’d love to say to you, is hit reset. Go back to the default settings that you were programmed with. (I know this sounds like crazy talk to those who know me and my extensive technological deficiencies, but hear me out.)
According to the standard of truth in our day (Wikipedia) (Yes, you correctly sensed some sarcasm), default settings are the standard values that apply to every single model of a product made. These are the settings that will ensure the device can be accessed and will work. They’ve been put into each model by the designer and creator of the model so that’s how we know the settings will work.
God’s Word tells us that He made us. If that’s true, it means we belong to Him. But we’ve gone and sold ourselves to something else—the pursuit of belonging, money, pleasure, possessions—whatever it is, we wrote the cheque and now it owns us. That’s a problem because whatever owns us has power over us and whether we realize it or not, that means we’re addicted to it. We’re slaves.
Being a slave is a huge problem if whatever enslaves us is a harsh master. But (yep, another important ‘but’ in the Bible) God bought us back. He paid to free us from a cruel master and the cost to Him was very high—the life of His Son—but the cost to us is free. Why would He do this? Well, He was motivated by deep love. He knew we couldn’t pay the price ourselves so He paid it for us. Wait a minute, doesn’t that mean He owns us again? Yes. (But remember the alternative?) So, we are His and He could call us by the things that used to define us (money lover, sex addict, pleasure chaser). But He doesn’t. He calls us by name.
We’re all heading into this new year chasing something. Something new or a return to something old. Whatever we’re chasing will have power over us. What could it be like to hit reset and return to the default setting? How could allowing the One who made you, who loves you and calls you by name, define and orient you for the new year? Might it mean that the new thing will always be awesome and easy?
Well, the truth is, that the path God is making in your life could very likely take you through the wilderness. In that wilderness you might find the only river running through it is the river of life that is Him. But. (Yes, it’s another big one!) Don’t you see what that means?! He’ll be with you in the wilderness!
The waters of this new year might flow fast and deep, but He’ll be with you. The fires of this new year might burn hot while you’re in the middle of them, but He’ll be in the furnace with you. Why? Because He is the God who came as Emmanuel, God with us. He came to be our Saviour. As His creation, we’re precious in His sight. He loves us. He gave His Son’s life in exchange for ours. Doesn’t that seem like a promise that whatever the specifics of 2019, He’ll be with us so we’ll be okay?
If you’re racing into the new year gung-ho about your own possibility and potential, give it a go I guess. When you run out of fuel, pull up to God’s fuel station and open the pumps. Unlike your fuel supply, His is unlimited.
If you feel like you’re coasting into the new year on fumes, pull up to God’s fuel station and open the pumps. Unlike your fuel supply, His is unlimited.
It is 2019. The old has gone. The new has come. But God is with us, so we’ll be okay.