I’ve seen many New Years now. Back in the day when I’d only seen a few decades, I had a vivid expectation that this time, this new year, everything would be different. All the hurts and disillusionments, mistakes and failures that had tangled me up and weighed me down from my life so far, could be suddenly, miraculously, magically be dealt with and THIS year, this blank sheet poised to bring so many new opportunities, could be completely different.
My resolutions envisaged a me who would no longer stumble over the old familiar defaults that frustrated me and everyone else so much. In this year, I would be more free, more in charge of my life, less bound by my own moods or expectations or those of the people around me. In this year, all the discouraging inabilities that dogged my efforts to be a better person would be turned on their heads and I would find myself overcoming every obstacle, if not with ease, at least with success. Not only that, I would be able to play the guitar/lose loads of weight/speak another language/exercise every day (choose your own adventure) at the same time.
Time has a way of bringing enlightenment, doesn’t it!
Truth is, we carry into each new day, new year, new decade, the sum total of all we already are and everything that has gone before. There’s nothing magical about the turning of the calendar. It won’t all suddenly be resolved, no matter how many resolutions you make. Old habits, wounded relationships, losses, wars and rumours of wars within and without – none of them will be sorted just because shiny new blank pages have emerged like a phoenix from the ashes of the old year. Change begins on the inside, not through the turning of the page.
Yet change happens all the time, some of it for the good of the one who has changed, and for the good of the people around them. Our cause is not lost. We are not doomed, like the mythical Flying Dutchman, to travel endlessly along the same paths, making the same mistakes and carrying the same sorrows and distresses forever. Things can be different. There is a remedy. Love contains within it the power to bring change.
I am one who has been changed by Love. Not overnight, mind you. The changes have been wrought over grueling and challenging years. Grueling because something more was required of me than just saying things would be different. Challenging because for the change to take place, I had to look at myself and acknowledge, not the wrong that’s been done to me, but the ways I have inflicted wrong upon other people and upon myself.
Working together, God has helped me to face myself: no excuses, and blaming.
That’s why it’s taken years.
He’s been patient, taking me a step at a time. Every time I’ve looked a little deeper to see another layer needing change, my first response has been to justify, excuse, accuse.
‘But they …..’.
However, in that deep place where only Holy Spirit and I converse, I have found He is not interested in ‘they’… only me.
I told you it was grueling.
Grueling… but life giving, and life changing also.
There’s something amazingly freeing about getting out of the habit of shifting the blame for my behaviour, attitudes, actions and choices to someone or something else. Freedom comes with taking responsibility without even one ‘but’ to sully or retard the process of change within my heart.
It’s from that place of openness with God (and out from that, other people) that change, whether it’s your choice or inflicted externally, can be negotiated with peace and strength, and the confidence that all is well even if it doesn’t look that way on the outside.
There will be challenges for us in 2017. Bound to be, because that is the nature of life. We don’t live in a utopian society and nor will we ever while we live on this earth. But we don’t have to be afraid. A relationship with Jesus Christ can bring freedom from fear, if we keep making the choice to focus on Him and not on the stresses that multiply around us.
It’s hard to do that at first, but the more you do it, the easier it becomes. Faith is a muscle. The more you work it, the stronger it becomes. That’s encouraging if you feel as though your life is a constant round of challenges.
Below is a portion of one of my favourite poems, by Minnie Louise Haskins.
And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year:
“Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.”
And he replied:
“Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God. That shall be to you better than a light and safer than a known way.”
So I went forth, and finding the Hand of God, trod gladly into the night. And He led me towards the hills and the breaking of day in the lone East.
The marvelous thing about God is that if we will trust Him enough to keep moving forward to put our hand in His, He will always lead us with courage into the new day, the new year, the new season.
I pray that your new year is one in which God gives you great strength, resolve, encouragement and that you will break through every level of fear that tries to hold you back from being the person He has called you to be.
Love to you and your households.
Bev has been a senior church leader for more than three decades. Speaking internationally for churches and conferences, she is determined to leave a legacy of strong and effective leadership for generations to come. She has mentored scores of leaders over more than 30 years and she would be happy to help you develop as a leader. She has a Masters degree in Global Leadership and is the author of two books – Speak Life and Shut the Hell Up, and Catalysts:You Can Be God’s Agent For Change.
An entrepreneur, Bev has founded a number of initiatives including:
Kyria, an organisation for women in leadership (www.kyrianetwork.com);
Cherish Uganda, an organisation for abandoned HIV+ children (www.cherishuganda.org),
Liberti Magazine, a magazine for Christian women in UK (www.libertimagazine.com)
as well as pastoring churches in Australia and UK, and mentoring and equipping leaders to plant churches across the nations.
Bev would be happy to speak for your church or event, consult with you on leadership issues, and you can contact her for leadership mentoring at firstname.lastname@example.org.